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NMT Lands $2.8 Million Grant For Atmospheric Field Project

Flying High to Study Ever-changing Weather

NMT Lands $2.8 Million Grant For Atmospheric Field Project

 

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech physics researchers received $2.8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a new field project in study the atmospheric phenomena that create hurricanes.

  Climate---in-flight
 

Dr. Zeljka Fuchs and Dr. Dave Raymond aboard a research flight. The NMT physics researchers will be conducting a new round of atmospheric data-gathering flights.

 

  climate---at-plane
 

Raymond and Fuchs with the NASA-funded airplane used to study tropical convection. 

 

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An office with a view: a photo taken during a past research flight.

Photos by Jose Martinez

Drs. Zeljka Fuchs and David J. Raymond recently formed the Climate and Water Center at New Mexico Tech, which will oversee the project. Aiming to improve weather prediction over the whole planet, researchers at Tech will study atmospheric convection, a process that creates cumulonimbus clouds responsible for violent storms, heavy rain and lightning. They will be flying on a high-altitude aircraft owned by NSF over the tropical East Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

This field study will enhance the recently established Climate and Water Center within New Mexico Tech's Geophysical Research Center (GRC). The GRC was established by the State Legislature in the 1980's to assist in dealing with water resource issues in New Mexico.  Vice President for Research Dr. Van Romero said the field study will provide data for forecasting models that will support the agricultural industry with in the State.

"Once these models are developed we will be able to do a much better job of forecasting", Romero said. Better forecasting will provide farmers and ranchers with better decision making tools to manage their resources. Romero further indicated that the ultimate goal will be to combine weather forecasting with economic forecasting to support the agricultural industry in the arid Southwest.

Weather and climate forecasts are an increasingly important part of our lives. The weather extremes such as heat waves, droughts, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes impact everyday life as well as agriculture, forestry and the economy in general.

“If we don't understand the physical processes that go into the model, the forecast will suffer,” Fuchs said. She emphasizes the importance of measurements taken in field campaigns like OTREC: “If we don't have the data, we cannot determine if our physics is correct.”

Raymond said, “Tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean is the ideal place to study rain. Understanding convection in the tropics is essential to making better weather forecasts over the entire globe, including here in New Mexico.”

The forecasts are based on physics and measurements. The least understood atmospheric physical process in models is called convection. Convection forms rain clouds and major storms and is very important for New Mexico weather, especially during the monsoon season. The measurements are sparse, especially over the ocean. To improve the physics of the weather and climate forecasts and to get the data where there is none, scientists do field projects. Tropical convection produces La Nina and El Nino weather patterns, which generate much of the precipitation in New Mexico.

The Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection, or OTREC, project will take place in the summer of 2019. The operational center will be in Costa Rica. The core group consists of scientists from Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Colorado State University, University of Washington, Columbia University and New Mexico Tech. The international collaborators are from Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia.

Fuchs is the director of the new Climate and Water Center at New Mexico Tech and a graduate of NMT. Raymond is a professor emeritus of physics at New Mexico Tech. He is the 2017 recipient of the American Meteorological Society's Jule Charney Award in recognition of highly significant research or development achievement. The Center's goal is to bring the fundamental science learned from projects like OTREC to the “real world", i.e. to apply science to the problems we are facing in our everyday lives due to weather and climate change.

– NMT –

 

 

Flying high to study ever changing weather

 

NMT Lands $2.8 Million Grant For Atmospheric Field Project

 

SOCORRO, N.M. – New Mexico Tech physics researchers received $2.8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a new field project in study the atmospheric phenomena that create hurricanes.

 

Drs. Zeljka Fuchs and David J. Raymond recently formed the Climate and Water Center at New Mexico Tech, which will oversee the project. Aiming to improve weather prediction over the whole planet, researchers at Tech will study atmospheric convection, a process that creates cumulonimbus clouds responsible for violent storms, heavy rain and lightning. They will be flying on a high-altitude aircraft owned by NSF over the tropical East Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

 

Vice President of Research Dr. Van Romero said the research will also provide practical applications for New Mexico agriculture producers.

 

“This research will provide us with models to help us do better forecasting,” Romero said. “With this funding, we will be able to establish a Center that studies weather in New Mexico in a way that we can provide farmers and ranchers with information to help decide when to plant, when to water, and when to harvest to maximize their productivity.”

 

Weather and climate forecasts are an increasingly important part of our lives. The weather extremes such as heat waves, droughts, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes impact everyday life as well as agriculture, forestry and the economy in general.

 

“If we don't understand the physical processes that go into the model, the forecast will suffer,” Fuchs said. She emphasizes the importance of measurements taken in field campaigns like OTREC: “If we don't have the data, we cannot determine if our physics is correct.”

 

Raymond said, “Tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean is the ideal place to study rain. Understanding convection in the tropics is essential to making better weather forecasts over the entire globe, including here in New Mexico.”

 

The forecasts are based on physics and measurements. The least understood atmospheric physical process in models is called convection. Convection forms rain clouds and major storms and is very important for New Mexico weather, especially during the monsoon season. The measurements are sparse, especially over the ocean. To improve the physics of the weather and climate forecasts and to get the data where there is none, scientists do field projects. Tropical convection produces La Nina and El Nino weather patterns, which generate much of the precipitation in New Mexico.

 

The Organization of Tropical East Pacific Convection, or OTREC, project will take place in the summer of 2019. The operational center will be in Costa Rica. The core group consists of scientists from Harvard University, University of Wisconsin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Colorado State University, University of Washington, Columbia University and New Mexico Tech. The international collaborators are from Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia.

 

Fuchs is the director of the new Climate and Water Center at New Mexico Tech and a graduate of NMT. Raymond is a professor emeritus of physics at New Mexico Tech. He is the 2017 recipient of the American Meteorological Society's Jule Charney Award in recognition of highly significant research or development achievement. The Center's goal is to bring the fundamental science learned from projects like OTREC to the “real world", i.e. to apply science to the problems we are facing in our everyday lives due to weather and climate change.

 

– NMT –