above and around the dangerous disturbances, gaug- ning potential of the storms in the hopes of better un- ing the various elements that unleash the fury of derstanding how different physical characteristics in storms. the atmosphere can contribute to development of light- Part of NASA's UAV-based science demonstration ning. These data will increase understanding of light- program, these flights will show the ability of this type ning and storms, while providing federal, state, and of aircraft to carry earth-viewing scientific payloads local governments new disaster-management informa- into environments where an onboard pilot would be tion for use in the areas of severe storms, floods, and exposed to life-threatening hazards. This capability wildfire. will benefit both U.S. scientific and commercial ob- This is one of two projects selected from 45 pro- jectives well into the new millennium. posals received in response to a solicitation issued in The mission will utilize the ALTUS UAV, built by 2000. The solicitation requires that the missions be General Atomics in San Diego, California, taking ad- managed in "Principal Investigator" mode: Each vantage of its remotely piloted capability, along with mission's lead investigator is responsible for choos- its high altitude (up to 55,000 ft) and slow speed. Re- ing the UAV best suited for the experiment, and then searchers from the University of Alabama at Hunts- managing all aspects of the mission for NASA. NASA ville, with colleagues from NASA's Goddard Space has identified approximately $8 million to fund the Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will chase down two UAV missions over a period of four years. thunderstorms in Florida to better understand the re- The mission is part of NASA's Earth Science En- lationship between storms and lightning. When a de- terprise, a long-term research effort aimed at under- veloping storm is spotted at NASA's Kennedy Space standing how human-induced and natural changes Center in Florida, researchers will send the ALTUS affect our global environment, while providing prac- above and around the storm, while the remote pilots tical societal benefits to America today. The Earth remain safely on the ground. Science Enterprise provides the sound science needed by policy and economic decision-makers to assure re- "This mission combines the exciting use of UAV technology with sound science to unravel the mystery sponsible stewardship of the global environment. behind lightning and its relationship to violent Drought s Aggravate d b y Dust in th e Win d storms—information that will help those who predict these events as well as the public and infrastructure af- Windblown desert dust can choke rain clouds, cut- fected," explained Ghassem Asrar, associate admin- ting rainfall hundreds of miles away. This new discov- istrator for earth sciences at NASA Headquarters in ery, made with the help of NASA satellites, suggests Washington, D.C. that droughts over arid regions, such as central Africa, Using precision instruments aboard the aircraft, are made worse by damaging land and livestock man- researchers will take measurements to determine light- agement that expand the desert. The findings present a new view of the decades- long drought in the African Sahel, which has been accompanied by increasing levels of airborne dust during the rainy season. The higher dust frequency is not necessarily a re- sult of the decreased rainfall, but rather its cause, ac- cording to scientists from Israel's Hebrew University and the Weizmann Institute. "This impact of desert 1200 Robert Stokes 2001 dust on rainfall was not known before," said lead au- 1201 Tracey Lewis thor Daniel Rosenfeld, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. 1202 Justin Kiefer "Due to the large sizes of some of these dust particles, 1203 James Bernard 2001 it had been assumed that desert dust would enhance 1204 David Kuharchik 2001 precipitation rather than decrease it." 1205 Kimberly Lansdell 2001 Scientists had expected that the largest dust particles 1206 Bryan Karrick 2001 would form giant cloud condensation nuclei, which produce larger cloud droplets that speed the formation of rain. "Our laboratory analysis of the desert dust, however, showed that the particles contained very little 1766 Vol. 82,, No. 8, August 2001
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Aug 1, 2001
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