Monday, November 24, 2014

NOAA airplanes for snow surveys in the Buffalo

Like many of us, I have been following last week’s lake effect snow that brought 5 to 7 feet of snow to some places near Buffalo NY. Now the temperatures are warmer in Buffalo leading to snow melt and flood warnings. See a photo gallery from the Buffalo News of images from the snow storm and another photo gallery of the transition from snow to flooding, again from the Buffalo News. A report from CNN on the flood warnings in Buffalo may be found here.

I was quite interested to read a post that the US National Weather Service Northeast River Forecast Center (NERFC) posted on their Facebook wall yesterday — go here to read the post about how U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pilots did an airborne survey of snow in the Buffalo area to determine snow water equivalent, or how much water is contained in the snow. I followed the links in the NERFC wall post to learn about the aircraft that are used and a little about the snow survey. The snow survey is done by NOAA’s National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center’s (NOHRSC) Airborne Snow Survey Program.

Two aircraft are used, one is Jet Prop Commander, and you may read more about this aircraft and the equipment she carries from these two NOAA webpages here and here. In addition to learning about this aircraft and her equipment, you will learn a little about snow surveys are done.

The second aircraft used for snow surveys is one of NOAA’s Rockwell Aero Commanders (they have two). To learn more about the Rockwell Aero Commander and how she (N51RF) is used for snow surveys, go to this webpage on the NOHRSC website. You will also learn about the type of missions flown by NOAA’s second Rockwell Aero Commander (N47RF) used as a multi-purpose survey platform.

I'd like to thank my friends at the US National Weather Service Mid-Atlantic River Forecast Center for taking the time to chat with me this afternoon as I was preparing to write this article. I hope to write a little more about how the NOHRSC uses NOAA aircraft for snow surveys in a later post after I have had a chance to do some more research and reading on the NOHRSC website. In the meantime, I wanted to share with you what I have learned in the last 24 hours.

Before I close, I would be remiss not to acknowledge NOAA's two Lockheed WP-3D Orions that are used for a variety of weather related research, including hurricane research and reconnaissance during hurricane season.

I will resume my series on Mt. Wilson Observatory on Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Stay safe out there everyone.

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