2012-03 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2012
Scientists across U.S. launch study of thunderstorm impacts on upper atmosphere
David Hosansky, NCAR/UCAR Media Relations
Zhenya Gallon, NCAR/UCAR Media Relations
BOULDER–Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other organizations are targeting thunderstorms in Alabama, Colorado, and Oklahoma this spring to discover what happens when clouds suck air up from Earth’s surface many miles into the atmosphere.
The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) experiment, which begins the middle of this month, will explore the influence of thunderstorms on air just beneath the stratosphere, a little-explored region that influences Earth’s climate and weather patterns. Scientists will use three research aircraft, mobile radars, lightning mapping arrays, and other tools to pull together a comprehensive picture.
“We tend to associate thunderstorms with heavy rain and lightning, but they also shake things up at the top of cloud level,” says NCAR scientist Chris Cantrell, a DC3 principal investigator. “Their impacts high in the atmosphere have effects on climate that last long after the storm dissipates.”
Past field projects have focused on either the details of thunderstorms but with limited data on the atmospheric chemistry behind them, or on the chemistry but with little detail about the storms themselves. DC3 is the first to take a comprehensive look at the chemistry and thunderstorm details, including air movement, cloud physics, and electrical activity.
Funding for DC3 comes from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA. The scientists leading the project are from NCAR, Pennsylvania State University, Colorado State University, and NOAA, with involvement by more than 100 researchers from 26 organizations.