Saturday, August 19, 2017

Drones to Fly Into Eclipse Totality Path to Study Weather

Pam Wright
Published: August 19,2017

Scientists will use drones to study how Monday's eclipse effects weather.
(Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)
While America stops to marvel at Monday's awe-inspiring celestial event, meteorologists and other atmospheric scientists will be busy flying drones into the path of the eclipse to study how the phenomenon affects weather.
According to a press release, a team of researchers from Oklahoma State University and the University of Nebraska will collect data observed by the drone for an aspect of a larger four-year project known as the  “Collaboration Leading Operational Unmanned Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics”, CLOUD MAP for short.
The project's overall mission is to learn how to use drones, which are able to collect data in lower altitudes and near structure where manned aircraft and air balloons cannot venture, to better study the weather.
“There’s an impact during what we call the diurnal cycle, the night-day boundary, the sun comes out, starts heating up the ground, and that’s where a lot of our unstable weather phenomena starts to form,” Jamey Jacob, a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Oklahoma State University, told Popular Mechanics. “The sun comes out, starts to heat the ground up, moist bubbles of air detach from the air as they get hot and go up and form thunderstorms, tornadoes, all kinds of things."
(MORE: Follow Monday's Great American Eclipse Live)
Monday's missions will use sensors mounted on the drones to collect temperature, humidity, wind and pressure readings before and after the eclipse and during totality when the moon blocks direct, solar heat changes. Scientists can then study how those changes affect the weather.
“It may sound relatively simple but essentially you take away that radiation, that heat in a certain area,” says Jacob, “it starts to cool down, as it cools down you essentially get a giant sucking effect from the hot air around and into this colder region.”
“Nothing,” says Jacob, “could be cooler or geekier.”

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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