NASA targets snowstorms in new balloon study

Scientist Andrew Janiszeski braved the great blizzard of January 2022, to pose for a photo before attempting a weather balloon launch near Geneseo, New York. A radiosonde is suspended below the weather balloon, which will collect data as the balloon rises and then parachute back down after the balloon bursts. NASA targets snowstorms in new study. Image via Troy Zaremba/ Nasa.

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Weather balloons and snowstorms

Sofie Bates shared a pleasure blog post on NASA.gov this week (February 7, 2022). She described efforts to collect data on snowstorms in the eastern United States as part of a new NASA study. NASA recently deployed ground and air crews to collect data during the big January 2022 North American Blizzard. One of the researchers, Andre Janiszeski, is a graduate student at the University of Illinois. He traveled to Plymouth, Massachussets, to participate in the study. He describe the team’s first attempt to throw a ball in a blizzard:

Climbed 15 feet (5 meters), caught a gust of wind, looped, dived, nearly hit a car, wrapped around a tree, went over a gas station and jumped.

Janiszeski and his teammate, Zaremba Troy, also from the University of Illinois, then tried again… with the same result. Later in the day, the winds died down, still gusting to 65 km per hour. So they tried again. The balloon took off, spinning in circles three times before finally rising and out of sight. They ended up with five successful balloon launches. Janiszeski noted:

It was a miracle. I really thought we were going to have a huge zero ball at the start of the day. These are without a doubt the most severe conditions we have experienced during [this study so far]. I was getting a little pessimistic, but five radiosondes in a storm like this… We’ll take that as a win.

These scientists were on a new NASA mission called IMPACTS (Survey of microphysics and precipitation for snowstorms threatening the Atlantic coast). Scientists hope to better understand how deep snow bands form. They hope to improve predictions of these extreme weather events.

Learn more via Sofie Bates at NASA.

Conclusion: NASA is conducting its first study of snowstorms in the eastern United States in 30 years, with the help of scientists, weather balloons, planes, and more.

Read more: 10 places to find snow beyond Earth