Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For Hurricanes, Storms, Raindrop Size Makes All The Difference

Date:
June 13, 2008
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
When Tropical Storm Gaston hit Richmond, Va., in August 2004, its notable abundance of small and mid-sized raindrops created torrential rains that led to unexpected flash flooding throughout the city and its suburbs. New research from NASA has concluded that tropical cyclones like Gaston produce rain differently than another class of storms called "extra-tropical" cyclones. Making a proper distinction between these systems may be a key to assisting weather forecasters in estimating rainfall intensity.

Tropical Storm Gaston moved ashore over the coast of McClellanville, South Carolina on August 29, 2005 as captured by the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite. At the time this image was taken, Gaston poured large amounts of small and mid-sized raindrops across several states, including the city of Richmond, Va.
Credit: NASA

When Tropical Storm Gaston hit Richmond, Va., in August 2004, its notable abundance of small and mid-sized raindrops created torrential rains that led to unexpected flash flooding throughout the city and its suburbs. New research from NASA has concluded that tropical cyclones like Gaston produce rain differently than another class of storms called "extra-tropical" cyclones. According to the study, making a proper distinction between these systems by looking at both raindrop size and abundance may be a key to assisting weather forecasters in estimating rainfall intensity. By doing so, forecasters can reduce the surprise factor of flash flooding and the unfortunate loss of property and life.

Ali Tokay, a research scientist from the Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET) at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., compared the rain measurements collected in tropical storms and hurricanes during the past three Atlantic hurricane seasons with measurements after these storms transitioned to being extra-tropical. Tokay's study appeared in the May issue of the American Meteorological Society's Monthly Weather Review.

When a tropical cyclone -- the generic name for tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes -- merges with a mid-latitude frontal storm system, measurable changes to the raindrop size and abundance occur as the system transitions to become extra-tropical. Extra-tropical cyclones also form outside the tropics without being part of a tropical system, and tend to form over land rather than over the open ocean. This category of storm can produce anything from a cloudy sky to a thunderstorm as it develops between weather fronts, the boundaries separating air masses of different densities.

Tokay looked at raindrop size, rain intensity, and the area in which rain falls in both tropical cyclones and extra-tropical cyclones using ground-based rain-measuring instruments called disdrometers. These instruments measure the range of raindrop sizes in a storm and the intensity of the rainfall. The disdrometer is an important part of the ground-based rain measuring instruments that are used to validate rainfall seen from satellites including the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), a joint mission with NASA and the Japanese Space Agency. He concluded that tropical cyclones that form over water tend to rain harder and have a greater amount of smaller drops before they transition to being extra-tropical with raindrops of larger size and mass.

"Torrents of rainfall from tropical storms are not surprising since the systems are large and move slowly. It is also true that slow moving frontal systems associated with an extra-tropical cyclone can result in abundant rainfall at a site," said Tokay. "What is less known is that the distribution of raindrops within a volume of air between the two systems differs substantially even though weather radar may measure the same returned power which is known as reflectivity." This is why disdrometer measurements of raindrop size are needed.

"Both rain intensity and reflectivity are integral products of raindrop size distribution, but they are mathematically related to different powers of the drop size," said Tokay. Weather radars cannot measure the range of raindrop sizes. As a result, rainfall estimates from weather radars must employ the use of equations that make assumptions about raindrop size. These assumptions can result in underestimation of rain intensity, and the possibility of deadly flooding.

In the study, Tokay uses disdrometer data from various sites around the U.S. and abroad. Most of the data were collected at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., where Paul Bashor of Computer Sciences Corporation, Wallops Island, Va. maintains several types of disdrometers. The data from two tropical storms were collected at Orlando, Fla., and Lafayette, La. through collaborative efforts with Takis Kasparis at the University of Central Florida's Orlando campus, and Emad Habib of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "For Hurricanes, Storms, Raindrop Size Makes All The Difference." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080610092746.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2008, June 13). For Hurricanes, Storms, Raindrop Size Makes All The Difference. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080610092746.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "For Hurricanes, Storms, Raindrop Size Makes All The Difference." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080610092746.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins