Hurricane Harvey offers unprecedented data for NSSL researcher

As Hurricane Harvey came ashore along the Texas coast, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Researcher Sean Waugh managed to do what no one has done before — he launched a weather balloon in the eye of the hurricane. The data recorded by the balloon’s instruments as it circled Harvey’s eyewall were record-breaking and confusing, and will require time and research to explain.

“This was the first observation of its kind,” Waugh said. “No one has ever seen this type of data, some of the values are exceptionally high and we are still trying to determine what those values mean.”

An image of the observations NOAA NSSL Researcher Sean Waugh saw after launching a weather balloon in the eye of the hurricane. (Photo by Sean Waugh/NOAA NSSL)

The eyewall is the edge of the eye of the hurricane — the strongest area of the storm. Two measurements from the balloon launch were particularly interesting. The first was a wind profile that produced computed values higher than ever observed, indicating its use in these circumstances may not be correct. The second, a measurement of potential rain, was also extreme, and may have been an early indication of the unprecedented flooding produced by Harvey.

The NOAA NSSL mobile mesonet in Texas before Hurricane Harvey came ashore. (Photo by Sean Waugh/NOAA NSSL)

The balloon launch was one part of Waugh’s efforts to collect data in the path of Hurricane Harvey. From a truck with roof mounted instruments called a mobile mesonet, he recorded observations of rain, wind, temperature and humidity for an extended period of time.

Gathering the data was not a task for the faint of heart. Before and after the balloon launch, Waugh experienced high winds — nearly 100 miles per hour — while sitting in the heavy mobile mesonet truck.

Waugh coordinated on this project with scientists from The University of Oklahoma College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. The university team collected data with their radar-equipped truck.

Over time, Waugh hopes to better understand this unprecedented data set, and how it can contribute to a greater understanding of hurricanes and the tornadoes they produce.

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NEWS CONFERENCE MEDIA ADVISORY: Researchers test unmanned aircraft systems

Researchers test unmanned aircraft systems for measuring the lower atmosphere, potentially improving short term weather forecasts

Researchers from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, The University of Oklahoma, University of Colorado and Meteomatics have begun a project to test the value of airborne, mobile observing systems for observing important changes in the local environment that can spawn severe thunderstorms.

During EPIC, the Environmental Profiling and Initiation of Convection field project, researchers will deploy fixed-wing and rotary small Unmanned Aircraft Systems today through May 20 at and near the Department of Energy’s Southern Great Plains site in Lamont, Oklahoma, and at a second site near an Oklahoma Mesonet station chosen each day. Timing and location of activities will be coordinated with the NOAA National Weather Service Norman Forecast Office, which will be receiving data from the instruments in real time for evaluation.

During the news conference, researchers will discuss their operational plans and project goals. Equipment on display will include the three systems being deployed:

  • Meteodrone rotary UAS from Meteomatics
  • CopterSonde rotary UAS from The University of Oklahoma
  • TTwistor fixed-wing UAS from the University of Colorado

News conference to discuss operational plans and project goals
Equipment displays

10 a.m., Friday, May 12

National Weather Center
Ceremonial Drive (circle drive by the flagpoles)
120 David L. Boren Blvd., Norman, Oklahoma

Colorado University’s TTwistor will be used in EPIC. (Photo provided)
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NSSL Launches iPhone and Android Apps to collect precipitation reports from the public

Screenshot of the mPING app for iPhone

The NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), in partnership with the University of Oklahoma and has launched an app where users can anonymously report precipitation from their iPhone or Android through the “mobile Precipitation Identification Near the Ground “mPING” app.  NSSL researchers will compare the reports with what radars detect and use the information to develop new radar and forecasting technologies and techniques to determine whether snow, rain, ice pellets, mixtures or hail is falling. NSSL hopes to build a valuable database of tens of thousands of observations from across the U.S.
The apps are available on iTunes or Google Play for use on both phones and tablets.

The reports can be viewed here in real-time:

Learn more at NSSL’s main PING page:

Link for iTunes mPING app

Link for Android app

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NSSL/CIMMS researchers to present at international symposium

NSSL/CIMMS researchers will be presenting at the 2nd International Symposium on Earth-science Challenges (ISEC) at the National Weather Center (NWC) in Norman, Okla. on September 14-16, 2011. This biannual event is dedicated to bringing together scientists and engineers from around the world to share recent advances in the study of the Earth.

Participating researchers will be giving oral and poster scientific presentations on earth system science, radar and satellite remote sensing of the atmosphere, hydrometeorology, modeling and data assimilation, and weather and climate variability.

The event is sponsored by Kyoto University (KU),and the University of Oklahoma (OU).

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