May 14, 1997 BOULDER-From April 22 to May 22, low-flying planes and an array of
new surface gauges in the Walnut River watershed east of Wichita,
Kansas, are gathering data from the lowest few thousand feet of the
atmosphere, called the boundary layer. Scientists Peggy LeMone of the
National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Bob Grossman of the
University of Colorado are coordinating the experiment to learn more
about the interactions between the boundary layer-which strongly
influences weather and climate-and the watershed.
Scientists understand most of the surface-boundary layer
interactions. "The real challenge," says LeMone, "lies in translating
these processes into equations that can aid weather forecasters." To do
that, researchers must measure the rates of heating and evaporation at
the surface, as well as how quickly air in the lower part of the
boundary layer mixes with air in the upper part. The Walnut River
watershed (see map) was selected for its shape, size, land-use patterns,
and hydrological characteristics. In addition, the existing watershed
instrumentation provides a useful historical data base.
CASES researchers will share their observations and findings not
only with other scientists, but with students as well. Data collected
in this first and future experiments in the multiyear project will be
available on the Internet for use by students from middle schools
through university graduate departments.
The University of Wyoming's King Air and the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Twin Otter aircraft are gathering
data to supplement information from surface weather stations, weather
balloons, and radar provided by NCAR and the U.S. Department of Energy's
(DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. Called the Cooperative Atmosphere-
Surface Exchange Study (CASES), the experiment is a joint effort by the
National Science Foundation (NSF), NOAA, and the DOE.
On the ground between Eldorado and Winfield, Kansas, 12 small
towers measure evaporation, heating, and friction inside a triangular
area marked off by three boundary-layer profilers that measure wind
speeds and temperature. The two low-flying aircraft, equipped with
computers and atmospheric sensors, fly in special patterns between 100
and 10,000 feet above the sparsely populated research area. Researchers
are also releasing weather balloons at noon and 3:00 p.m. daily from two
of the three profiler locations.
The public is invited to view the aircraft at the Ponca City
Airport during no-fly periods; contact Dr. Grossman (405-763-5809) to
schedule an appointment. CASES researchers are also available to visit
classrooms. Students and teachers can find more information about the
experiment, including daily observations, on the World Wide Web at
NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric
Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.
Writer: Zhenya Gallon
Find more information about the CASES project at
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