10 December 2013

Big snow coming!!!

Today, I was finally able to fly 4th seat in the UW King Air over western New York. One of my main jobs while out here on this project is flying on the aircraft, although up to this point the 4th seat hasn't been available so I haven't yet been able to fly. Today, the seat was open! For those of you asking what the person in the 4th seat does, I will address that in a future post when I talk more about the King Air itself. For now, just know that the person in the 4th seat gets to help out with a lot of stuff during the flight, but also gets to sort of be the person who is "along for the ride".

Anyway, we flew through some lake-effect snow bands that had originally developed over Lake Erie and were moving eastward over land. Lake Erie is southwest of Lake Ontario and also gets a lot of lake-effect snow. One of the many scientific goals of OWLeS is to study what is known as the "downwind persistence" of lake-effect snow. In more simple words, how are these lake-effect snow bands able to continue to grow and stay strong even after they move far from the lake? Today's flight collected data that might help answer that question.

Remember from my previous post that the lake-effect snow forms and strengthens over the lakes mainly due to the temperature difference between the lake water and the very cold air above it. Well, once a snow band moves off the lake, it loses that temperature difference (the land is much cooler than the water), yet these snow bands often stay very strong up to 100 or more miles from the lake. Why is that, and what meteorological processes are controlling it? We had one of the scientists onboard the flight who was wanting to study this and try to answer these questions. Below are some photos I took during the flight.