NASA to join "rivers in the sky" research campaign
NASA scientists, aircraft and sensors will participate in an airborne field campaign to study "rivers in the sky," the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on Thursday.
The so-called "rivers in the sky" refer to atmospheric rivers - narrow regions in Earth's atmosphere that transport enormous amounts of water vapor across the Pacific or other regions, Xinhua reported.
Aptly nicknamed "rivers in the sky," they can transport enough water vapor in one day, on average, to flood an area the size of Maryland 0.3-meter deep, or about seven times the average daily flow of water from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, according to the JPL, headquartered in Pasadena, Los Angeles.
The field campaign, led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and slated to start Feb. 11, will improve the understanding of how atmospheric rivers form and behave, JPL said.
The campaign will also evaluate the operational use of unmanned aircraft for investigating these phenomena, said the JPL.
The campaign will follow a recent major emergency preparedness scenario led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in which scientists analyzed the possibility of a series of strong atmospheric rivers striking California - a scenario of flooding, wind and mudslides the USGS said could cause damages exceeding those of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
While atmospheric rivers are responsible for great quantities of rain that can produce flooding, they also contribute to beneficial increases in snowpack, the JPL said.
Called Winter Storms and Pacific Atmospheric Rivers, or WISPAR, the field campaign, which continues through the end of February, is designed to demonstrate new technology, contribute to the understanding of atmospheric rivers and assist NOAA in potentially conducting offshore monitoring of atmospheric rivers to aid in future weather predictions, according to the lab.