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NASA ER-2 Flies in Midwestern Wind, Rainfall Study
04.28.11
 
With full flaps and speed brakes deployed, one of NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 environmental science aircraft descends on final approach to the runway at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.With full flaps and speed brakes deployed, one of NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 environmental science aircraft descends on final approach to the runway at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The aircraft is currently involved in a six-week severe weather wind and precipitation study over the Midwest states. (NASA / Tony Landis) A NASA aircraft and its suite of scientific sensors are participating in a study of convective cloud and precipitation processes that includes the observation and measurement of the entire process, as it occurs from the ice that forms near the top of the clouds to the rain that falls to the ground.

A high-altitude NASA ER-2 arrived at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., April 22 to begin a six-week study in support of the Global Precipitation Measurement, or GPM, mission. When launched in 2013, the mission will use an international constellation of satellites to study global rain, snow and ice to aid in better understanding Earth’s climate, weather and hydro-meteorological processes.

The ER-2, acting as a satellite simulator, is carrying instruments that are sampling the entire column of atmosphere below the aircraft to verify that the data collected produce a consistent summary of precipitation physics and improve the accuracy of future satellite instruments. During the study, a Cessna Citation operated by the University of North Dakota is conducting in situ sampling in the clouds and precipitation occurring underneath the ER-2.

Three NASA instruments are mounted in the ER-2 for the Mid-latitude Continental Convective Clouds Experiment, or MC3E, campaign. The High-altitude Imaging Wind and Rain Profiler, or HIWRAP, is a dual-frequency radar that maps three-dimensional winds and precipitation within severe weather events. The sensor, developed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., previously flew on a NASA Global Hawk during the fall 2010 hurricane mission.

NASA environmental science ER-2 aircraft No. 806 takes off from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif.NASA environmental science ER-2 aircraft No. 806 takes off from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif. The aircraft is currently involved in a six-week severe weather wind and precipitation study over the Midwest states. (NASA / Tony Landis) Scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., have redesigned the Advanced Microwave Precipitation Radiometer, or AMPR, to more accurately detect what kind of precipitation is in a storm and better distinguish how the Earth’s surface characteristics influence the interpretation of the measurements being made by radiometers. By more precisely identifying the type of the precipitation present and the impacts of a given land surface on the measurement, the AMPR may present scientists with recognizable signatures that could enable improved precipitation estimates to be made from space.

NASA Goddard originally developed the Conical Scanning Millimeter-wave Imaging Radiometer, or CoSMIR, to validate clear-air satellite data. CoSMIR recently was modified to play the role as an airborne high-frequency simulator for the GPM mission’s microwave imager. The radiometer is located in an ER-2 wing pod and for the first time will be used to provide data about snow and ice particles in clouds at various elevations while flying at an altitude of 65,000 feet.

Although flying from the air base in Nebraska, the ER-2’s target area during the NASA and Department of Energy MC3E campaign is central and northern Oklahoma. The ER-2 is scheduled to return to its home base at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., on June 4.

Read more about the MC3E precipitation measurement study:
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/rain-campaign.html

 
 
Beth Hagenauer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center