News Release 96-024
Planes, Mobile Radars Analyze Chemistry of Thunderstorms
May 22, 1996
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Airplanes and ground-based vehicles will probe intense Colorado thunderstorms in one of the nation's largest storm related field programs this summer. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supported project is aimed at documenting the interchange between thunderstorms and their environments.
Entitled "Deep Convection and the Composition of the Upper Troposphere and Lower Stratosphere," the field program will take place in northeast Colorado during late June and July. It is one of three parts of STERAO, the Stratosphere- Troposphere Experiments: Radiation, Aerosols, and Ozone. STERAO is a multiyear study of the chemistry and dynamics of the upper troposphere (the atmosphere's lowest 15 kilometers, where our weather is shaped) and the lower stratosphere (the sensitive zone between 15 and 45 kilometers where the earth's protective ozone layer is found).
"Water vapor and nitrogen are of particular interest in STERAO," says Cliff Jacobs, coordinator of NSF's lower atmospheric facilities section. "Thunderstorms bring vast amounts of water vapor from the lower to the upper troposphere, but the exact pathways are uncertain. Lightning is a significant source of active nitrogen, which can lead to the production of ozone, but the process is not yet fully understood."
A high-altitude WB-57F aircraft, recently acquired by the National Science Foundation, will make its research debut during STERAO.
Researchers and technicians from several research centers and universities will collaborate with the NSF- funded National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on this summer's field program. Operations will be based at NCAR's Research Aviation Facility, a few miles from Boulder, Colorado, at Buckley Air Force Base east of Denver, and at an operations center for radar and ground-based teams near Greeley, Colorado.
Among the instruments probing the storms will be:
- Two mobile Doppler radars that can gather data from within several kilometers of severe storms;
- A lightning interferometer from France that will make unique three-dimensional observations of lightning;
- A variety of devices for air sampling and analysis aboard the aircraft to assess the chemical make-up of air in and near the storms at both high and low altitudes.
Cheryl L. Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Clifford A. Jacobs, NSF, (703) 292-8521, email: email@example.com
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