Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Inside a snowstorm: Scientists obtain close-up look at Old Man Winter

Date:
January 11, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
In this winter of heavy snows -- with more on the way this week -- nature's bull's-eye might be Oswego, N.Y., and the nearby Tug Hill Plateau. There the proximity of the Great Lakes whips wind and snow into high gear. Old Man Winter then blows across New York state, burying cities and towns in snowdrifts several feet high. This season, however, something is standing in his way.

DOW Doppler radar of cells in a snowband; the coiled hooks are the most intense snows.
Credit: CSWR

In this winter of heavy snows--with more on the way this week--nature's bull's-eye might be Oswego, N.Y., and the nearby Tug Hill Plateau. There the proximity of the Great Lakes whips wind and snow into high gear. Old Man Winter then blows across New York state, burying cities and towns in snowdrifts several feet high. This season, however, something is standing in his way.

The Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW), a data-collecting radar dish, is waiting. This month and next, scientists inside the DOW are tracking snowstorms in and around Oswego to learn what drives lake-effect snowstorms that form parallel to the long axis of a Great Lake and produce enormous snowfall rates.

These long lake-axis-parallel (LLAP) bands of snow are more intense than those of other snow squalls and produce some of the highest snowfall rates and amounts in the world, say atmospheric scientists Scott Steiger of the State University of New York (SUNY)-Oswego, Jeffrey Frame of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Alfred Stamm of SUNY-Oswego.

"The mobility of a DOW," Steiger says, "is ideal for following lake-effect storms. The DOW will allow us to witness them as they form and cross lakes, which other weather radars can't do."

The DOW, or more properly "DOWs" as there are three, is a National Science Foundation (NSF) atmospheric science facility.

A DOW looks more like the dish of a radio telescope than a sophisticated weather instrument. It's mounted on the back of a flat-bed truck. With a DOW on board, the truck becomes an odd configuration of generator, equipment and operator cabin.

Ungainly as it may appear, it's ideally suited to provide detailed information on the inner workings of snow and other storms, says Josh Wurman, director of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) in Boulder, Colo.

Wurman should know. He and colleagues developed the first DOW in 1995.

The DOW uses Doppler radar to produce velocity data about severe storms at a distance.

When a DOW is deployed, it collects fine-scale data from within a snowstorm and displays features that can't be seen with more distant radars.

The DOW radars are dual polarization, says Wurman, which means that they send out both horizontally- and vertically-oriented energy. By looking at differences in the energy bounced back from these horizontal and vertical beams, scientists can learn more about the snowflakes, ice, rain and snow pellets in snowbands.

"NSF's dual-polarization DOW radars offer an important new avenue toward better understanding this intense winter weather phenomenon affecting the Great Lakes region," says Brad Smull, program director in NSF's Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funds the DOWs and the LLAP project.

The DOWs measure Doppler winds, snow intensity, and properties related to whether snow is dense, comprised of pellets, or formed from loose collections of traditional six-sided snowflakes. A storm's snow crystal type plays a major role in whether lake-effect snowbands drop a few inches of snow--or more than two feet.

"Understanding snow type is critically important," says Wurman.

The DOWs collect data that will be used to determine how LLAP snowbands intensify and weaken, and move across a region. The scientists are right behind.

"Instead of waiting for snowbands to come to us," says Wurman, "we and the DOWs are going to them."

After forecasting likely snowband events, Steiger, Wurman and colleagues and the DOW drive to one of more than 30 sites near Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the Tug Hill Plateau to monitor LLAP snowbands.

During the past week, scientists deployed the DOW to four locations near Oswego and Rochester to study intense snowbands. The bands dropped snow at up to four inches per hour, with final totals of more than two feet.

Initial findings are that intense storm circulations were observed in the bands, and that the snow type changed during the passage of the storm.

More lake effect snows are forecast for this weekend. DOWs and scientists are again heading to New York hilltops to peer inside.

Old Man Winter may have no choice but to give up his secrets.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Inside a snowstorm: Scientists obtain close-up look at Old Man Winter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110111141349.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, January 11). Inside a snowstorm: Scientists obtain close-up look at Old Man Winter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110111141349.htm
National Science Foundation. "Inside a snowstorm: Scientists obtain close-up look at Old Man Winter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110111141349.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. 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