NMT Leading $5.4 Million Study Of Atmospheric Convection Over The Pacific
June 21, 2018
NSF Provides Additional $2.9 Million for research connected to 2019 Field Project
SOCORRO, N.M. – The Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection (OTREC) project at New Mexico Tech received new funding from the National Science Foundation: $2.9 million for the three-year research connected to 2019 Field Project.
Along with $2.5 million received last year, the organization of atmospheric physicists will be able study the tropical Eastern Pacific, a region that is characterized by a strong sea surface temperature gradient with the coldest temperatures on the equator. New Mexico Tech physics professors Dr. Zeljka Fuchs and Dr. David J. Raymond are leading the effort.
Collaborating institutions are Harvard, Wisconsin, Colorado State, Washington, Columbia, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. International collaborators are from Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia. The project will support one post-doc from NMT, 12 graduate students including two at NMT, and several undergraduates.
(Pictured at right are Dr. Zeljka Fuchs and Dr. Dave Raymond aboard the NSF's Gulfstream V plane during a previous field campaign.)
“This is impressive for a small school like New Mexico Tech,” Fuchs said. “Our group travels a lot and, in research, we can measure up to larger schools.”
The project will examine atmospheric convection to improve our understanding of the physics that goes into the forecasting models as well as establish a scientific basis for better treatments of convection in global weather and climate models.
“Weather forecast has become a part of our everyday lives,” she said. “We depend on it when we take our kids to school, when we wish to barbecue, when we need to decide whether to irrigate. The aviation industry uses the weather forecasts to safely fly the planes. When disasters such as hurricanes, floods, droughts or fires strike, we depend on weather forecasts to minimize the impact and to save lives.”
The field phase will take place in August and September 2019. The project will use the Gulfstream V aircraft under the aegis of the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the NSF. The plane will be used to deploy 600 dropsondes, instruments that measure temperature, humidity, and wind from the plane to the ocean. The group will measure cloud characteristics by NCAR's downward-pointing W-band radar. In addition to the aircraft operation, soundings, GPS column water vapor measurements, and oxygen isotope measurements in rainfall will be made in Costa Rica and Colombia.
The project will include 20 flights that last for seven hours each, totaling 140 hours. 30 dropsondes per flight will be deployed. In addition to the aircraft operation, soundings, GPS column water vapor measurements, and oxygen isotope measurements in rainfall will be made in Costa Rica and Colombia.
Fuchs said the project will be conducting “dry runs” in August and September of 2018. The dry run can be done remotely, with the goal of preparing for the field project itself in 2019.
“We will use the forecasting tools to decide when and where to fly,” she said. “After our ‘imaginary’ test flight, we will use the real-time data to see how well did we do. Did we fly where we wanted to, did the convection surprise us by developing earlier or later than we thought? What could have we done better?”
Knowing the weather forecast in one region of the world depends on knowing what’s going on in the rest of the world. The tropics represent more than a third of the world where scientists cannot produce accurate forecasts even for the first 24 hours.
OTREC also aims to improve global analyses and satellite observations of convection in the East Pacific and South-West Caribbean. The long term goal is to establish a scientific basis for better treatments of convection in global weather and climate models.
– NMT –