NSSL researchers join large, international flash flood project in Europe

10-year project expected to reveal important findings beneficial to the United States

NOAA, NASA and the University of Connecticut are representing the United States in the Hydrological Cycle in the Mediterranean Experiment (HyMeX), the largest weather field research project in European history.

HyMex is a 10-year international effort to better understand, quantify and model the hydrologic cycle in support of improved forecasts and warnings of flash floods in the Mediterranean region.

The project targets central Italy, southern France, the Balearic Islands, Corsica and northern Italy — all areas particularly susceptible to devastating flash flood events. Improved understanding of the land, atmosphere and ocean interactions that contribute to flash flooding in this part of the world will advance the state of the science that will ultimately be represented in forecast models with application in the United States.

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) researchers will operate a mobile radar, NOAA – XPol (NOXP), in southeast France from Sept. 10 to Nov. 10. This is the first of several special observation periods during the HyMeX 10-year timeframe. Additionally, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service is sponsoring scientists from New Mexico Tech to operate and evaluate a Lightning Mapping Array during HyMeX to support product development and validation for the future Geostationary Lightning Mapper on NOAA’s GOES-R satellite, which is scheduled to launch in late 2015.

The radar will provide high-resolution data and low altitude scans to help determine the size of the raindrops, the intensity of rainfall, and rainfall rates to help predict flash flooding conditions in the Cévennes Vivarais region of France.

During autumn, onshore moisture from the Mediterranean Sea encounters the 5,000-feet high Cévennes Mountains in southeast France making numerous towns and villages particularly subject to severe flash flood events.

Over the next three months, NSSL researcher will operate the NOAA-XPol mobile radar in southeast France as part of the HyMeX experiment, the largest weather field research project in European history.

“Data collected in the air, at sea and on land will shed light on how catastrophic flash-flooding events begin, which may help local officials better prepare for and respond to these types of emergencies,” said Jonathan Gourley, Ph.D., an NSSL research hydrologist.

Other sensors include three instrumented research aircraft, three research ships, buoys, ocean sensors, additional mobile precipitation radars, cloud radars and microradars, hundreds of rain gauges, ten disdrometers (to measure size and speed of individual raindrops), a dozen lidars, sonar, instrumented balloons, wind profilers, and a lightning mapping array.

NSSL’s participation in HyMeX is sponsored by MétéoFrance, and operations are coordinated with the Cévennes-Vivarais Mediterranean Hydro-Meteorological Observatory, The University of Grenoble, NASA, University of Connecticut and Cemagraf.

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New NOAA awards to fund studies of weather warnings, social media, Internet tools and public response

New NOAA awards to fund studies of weather warnings, social media, Internet tools and public response

How do people sift important weather information out of the incessant buzz of 24/7 social media, text messages, smart phone app alerts, overflowing email inboxes, the blogosphere, and traditional print and broadcast media? Four new research awards funded by NOAA seek to answer this question and to improve the way potentially life-saving weather warnings reach those who need to act on them.

The awards, totaling about $879,000 for four, two-year projects, are being awarded by the Office of Weather and Air Quality in the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research with funding from the U.S. Weather Research Program and the NOAA National Weather Service.

“These projects apply innovative social science research methods to the immense challenge of communicating crucial weather information in an increasingly complex world,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and NOAA deputy administrator. “The results are expected to improve communication within the weather community and motivate appropriate responses from the public when dangerous weather threatens.”

University and nonprofit social science and weather researchers will lead the projects, which support the NOAA Weather-Ready Nation initiative. NOAA experts from the Storm Prediction Center, National Severe Storms Laboratory, weather forecast offices, and river forecast centers will collaborate on them. Award recipients include the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, the University of Oklahoma, Arizona State University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina, and the Nurture Nature Center in Easton, Penn.

Tornadoes and Twitter: A two-year award of $250,000 will fund research on how Twitter messages could be tapped as a source of local weather observations and how Twitter could be used to share weather updates. Carol Silva, Ph.D., associate director of the Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., will lead this project. Part of the project will explore the promise and possible pitfalls of using Twitter in severe weather forecasting operations. Another phase of the research will study the nature and content of tweets about severe weather events. In the final phase, researchers will work with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the NOAA Storm Prediction Center to assess possible use of Twitter data in detecting and tracking storms, issuing warnings, and assessing damage after a storm.

An inundation of flood data: A two-year award of $160,000 will fund research to develop strategies to improve online flood forecasting tools and to better motivate residents to prepare for floods and respond to flood warnings. Rachel Hogan Carr, director of the Nurture Nature Center of Easton, Penn., will lead the project. The Nurture Nature Center is a non-profit organization that has previously partnered with NOAA and NWS on flood education. The center will partner with the NWS Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center and NWS Weather Forecast Offices in Mt. Holly, N.J., and Binghamton, N.Y., to assess NWS flood forecast and warning tools. The aim is to help NWS understand how people living in the Delaware River Basin use NWS online tools to understand and prepare for flood risk

Deciding to seek shelter: A two-year award of $75,000 will fund research to explore factors that explain why some people rush for shelter when they receive a tornado warning and others do not. Renee McPherson, Ph.D., associate professor of geography and environmental sustainability at the University of Oklahoma (OU), will lead this project. She is a fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), a partnership between NOAA and OU. Researchers will identify the factors relevant to an individual’s response to a tornado warning, specifically the NWS polygon warning tool which defines a geographic danger zone. They will collaborate with the NWS Warning Decision Training Branch and the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Managing a weather emergency: A two-year award of $394,000 will fund research on how NWS can improve its products and services to feed helpful information into the complex network of people who manage public emergency services. Kenneth Galluppi, director of the Arizona State University Decision Theater, will lead this multi-institution project with Arizona State University, East Carolina University, the University of North Carolina, and CIMMS at the University of Oklahoma. For several years this team has been studying how the emergency management network – managers of public services such as transportation, police and fire units, and utilities – processes weather information. This project will build on earlier studies and will produce recommendations for NWS forecasters.

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Super Rapid Scan Experiment combines satellite, radar and lightning observations

GOES-14 image from August 16, 2012

As storms moved across Oklahoma yesterday, the GOES-14 satellite, Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR) and the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array (OK-LMA) coordinated data collection for the first time as part of the Super Rapid Scan Experiment.

The goal to of the project is evaluate the potential of these combined observations for forecasting and warning of severe storms.

The GOES-14 satellite has been taken out of storage (currently in orbit over the equator at 105 degrees west) to collect 1-minute satellite imagery over target areas when storms are expected. When thunderstorms move through Oklahoma, MPAR will also scan these storms at a rate of1-minute or less.  The LMA’s will map the location and development of of lightning channel segments over the same areas.

The first of the next generation of geostationary satellites (GOES-R), scheduled to be launched in late 2015, will be able to routinely scan at 1-minute frequency with increased spectral and spatial resolution.  It will also carry an optical lightning detection system (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) to measure total lightning (in-cloud and cloud-to ground) with high temporal and spatial resolution. The LMA measurements during these tests will be used to help assess the impact of the satellite-based lightning data when it becomes available with GOES-R.

The experiment runs from August 16, 2012 through about October 31, 2012 and is a coordinated effort between NSSL and the NESDIS Office of Satellite and Product Operations, and the NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) Advanced Satellite Products Branch in Madison, WI, and the GOES-R program office.

Real-time satellite imagery is being made available on the Web and on workstations (N-AWIPS) at the SPC:



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NSSL scientist teaches students about weather in Barrow, Alaska

Bob Rabin stands under whale bones in Barrow, Alaska

A team of scientists including NSSL’s Bob Rabin introduced North Slope Alaska Native students from Barrow, Alaska, and other small villages to weather and climate science through two STEM courses recently. Held on the campus of the Ilisagvik College, the classes were designed for students to explore various disciplines addressing climate change.

Students are learning to draw contour lines on weather maps

During the first session, Rabin presented remotely from Norman, Okla., to students in grades 10 and up.  Activities were designed to give students an opportunity to learn about remote observations such as satellites, and how they are used in research and weather forecasting.  Topics covered by other scientists included the carbon cycle, land cover changes, radon and permafrost, data visualization and documentation.

During the second course, Rabin presented a full day of activities in Barrow that included satellite basics, observations and weather forecasting for grades 7-9.  The students then participated in a contest based on their forecasts of temperature, pressure and wind for the following few days.  Tours and hands-on activities were provided at the National Weather Service Weather Office in Barrow (lead by Dave Anderson, Officer in Charge), and at the ESRL/Global Monitoring Division observatory (lead by Matthew Martinsen, Station Chief).

Students make observations at ESRL's site
Sea ice in Barrow

Barrow is located 500 miles north of Fairbanks. The Barrow community and the smaller villages of the North Slope of Alaska depend heavily on subsidence living. “Their connection with the environment is very strong,” Rabin said.  “There seems to be a keen awareness and concern for the effects of the weather on food supply, especially whaling and hunting caribou.”

In collaboration with local elders, Rabin hopes to help develop an online course on weather and climate of the North Slope at Ilisagvik College. The course could incorporate some of the traditional ways people predicted and understood the weather and may include installation of a simple weather station at the college.

Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska

Keep scrolling for more photos.  What are the chances of you ever getting to visit Barrow?

Barrow Science Lab
The Arctic Ocean
Students look at weather models
The Ilisagvik campus
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Researchers plan first extensive U.S. study looking for link between cities and storms

A group of researchers, including NSSL’s Dave Stensrud, recently announced they plan to study the effects of cities on thunderstorms. Looking at a number of different U.S. cities, the project hopes to clarify how urban pollution, canopy, and surrounding landscape influences the intensity and track of an approaching thunderstorm.

Stensrud is a principal investigator on the three-year $1.5 million NASA grant.

Researchers will use data from the space-borne MODIS sensors on NASA satellites to look at city shape and size, as well as pollution and other aerosols, for selected cities in the Great Plains.  These measurements, along with geographic data of the urban canopy and the vegetation of surrounding rural areas, will be combined with archived radar data of storms in high-resolution computer simulations.

“We are going to set up and run the model many times but with different variables; city or no city, pollution or vegetation,” Stensrud said.  “From this we hope to learn what size a city needs to be to have an impact on a storm.”

The information will be valuable for city and regional planners, as well as agricultural producers in surrounding areas.

The team includes weather computer modelers, radar meteorologists, landscape architects, atmospheric chemists and geographers from NSSL, South Dakota State University, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Michigan, Columbia University and the University of Minnesota.

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NSSL partnership with private industry benefits thousands in Arizona

NSSL's mobile radar scans a dust storm near Phoenix, AZ.

NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) has a ten-year cooperative research venture with the Salt River Project (SRP), an Arizona power and water utility, to develop weather decision support tools for the company’s power dispatch, transmission operations, and water diversion. In 2011, an NSSL-produced prototype algorithm that provided advance notice to prepare for the impact of a severe dust storm in Phoenix. This week, NSSL launches a month-long study using mobile radar to verify its microburst and haboob prediction algorithms. These data help SRP serve 920,000 electric customers in the Phoenix area and deliver nearly 1 million acre-feet of water annually to a service area in central Arizona.

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Evolution of a Quasi-Linear Convective System Sampled by Phased Array Radar

Journal: Monthly Weather Review

Expected publication date: Early online release, June 5, 2012

Authors: Jennifer Newman, Pamela Heinselman (NSSL)

Summary: The National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar in Norman, Oklahoma scanned a strong line of thunderstorms as it produced damaging wind events across central Oklahoma. The rapid scanning phased array radar created a detailed depiction of these wind events including microbursts, an intensifying midlevel jet, and a small area of rotation.

Important conclusions: The depiction of these events in the phased array radar data demonstrates the complex and rapidly changing nature of strong
lines of thunderstorms.

Significance: Using rapid-scan phased array radar, developing severe weather is easier to detect and important changes in the strength of storms can be

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