From OUDaily (Lauren Green):
Researchers from OU and the University of Colorado at Boulder are working together by using drones to study how storms form in coastal urban areas to help improve weather forecasting.
This team of researchers wants to better understand how storms form through the relationship between atmospheric circulations, according to an OU press release. Atmospheric circulations are the winds driven by changes in temperature and pressure, and particles in the air, known as aerosols, and convection.
“By deploying a fleet of remotely piloted aircraft systems in the Houston, Texas, area, we will gain valuable insight to improve the ability for computers to predict how and why storms will form so that meteorologists can provide better warnings in advance of dangerous hail, flash flooding or high winds,” Liz Pillar-Little, OU’s Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling assistant director and College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences research scientist, said in the release.
The release reads Houston is an excellent location to study these processes due to the interactions between different air masses, which have been observed previously to induce or enhance storm formation.
In the release, Pillar-Little said “mid-latitude” storm systems can produce severe storms with flooding, strong wind and lightning. The physics behind this is hard to represent in models, she said.
“Like a pot of water coming to boil, convection is the transfer of heat from a warmer area to a cooler one,” Pillar-Little said in the release. “The combination of these atmospheric circulations and aerosols in coastal urban environments, like Houston, can drive convective processes by which big storms are created.”
The team involved in this study includes researchers from OU’s CASS, along with scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder and the Integrated Remote and In-Situ Sensing Laboratory, according to the release.