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April 23, 2002

Release: 02-28

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NASA's DC-8, based at the Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., is participating in a study of water vapor that feeds showers and thunderstorms. The aircraft is one of six taking samples during the International H2O Project (IHOP2002) May 13 through June 15. Missions will fly out of Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is leading the large investigation of the moisture that produces heavy rains across the southern Great Plains from Texas to Kansas. Scientists hope the IHOP2002 measurements will answer questions about when, where and how summertime storms form and allow for better prediction of rainfall amounts associated with these storms. Improved forecasting of heavy rains may also result in more accurate flash flood warnings that could prevent some loss of life associated with these storms.

Scientists from NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., will operate a Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Experiment (LASE) installed on the DC-8 for IHOP2002. The LASE system is used to obtain high-resolution observations. It measures water vapor, clouds and aerosols by comparing the absorption and scattering of different laser pulses from the DC-8. Laser beams are emitted from the aircraft above and below to take measurements from near the surface to several miles above the aircraft.

Ed Browell, LASE principal investigator, said, "All the LASE water vapor, aerosol and cloud data will be used by atmospheric researchers for improving our ability to forecast the onset of strong storms and rain events."

Also aboard the aircraft are the University of Wisconsin's Scanning High Resolution Interferometer Sounder, which obtains a profile of the vertical distribution of moisture in the air. A third instrument from Goodrich Avionics Systems, Grand Rapids, Mich., sponsored by NASA Dryden, is a Clear Air Turbulence Scanner (CATScan). This instrument will use an existing Stormscope antenna on the DC-8 to detect the signals generated by clear air turbulence.

The National Science Foundation, NCAR's sponsor, is the primary financial supporter of IHOP2002. Additional support is provided by other agencies including National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Department of Energy.


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