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Scientists begin 5-month study of cloud life cycles
Date:12/9/2010

Steamboat Springs, Colorado Ski season is snow season, and snow season means clouds exactly what a team of atmospheric scientists in "Ski Town USA" are anticipating. For the next five months, a dense collection of remote-sensing instruments will gather data from the clouds at four different elevations on Mount Werner in the Steamboat Springs ski area. Scientists will use these data to study how clouds especially those that produce rain and snow - evolve in mountainous terrain. They will use the data to verify the accuracy of measurements used in computer models of the Earth's climate system.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility, the goal behind the multiple elevation instrument strategy is to capture a "vertical profile" of the clouds that move across the mountain slopes. To do this, the department is deploying a new ARM Mobile Facility with nearly two dozen remote-sensing instruments to take continuous measurements from three different elevations beneath Storm Peak Lab, a permanent atmospheric research lab at the top of Mount Werner.

"Data sets like these are usually only possible through episodic and expensive aircraft operations over the course of several years," said Jay Mace, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Utah and the lead scientist for the Storm Peak Laboratory Cloud Property Validation Experiment, or STORMVEX. "This data set will be crucial for validating ground-based measurements of liquid, mixed-phase, and precipitating clouds systems."

Because clouds are so dynamic and can contain ice, water, or a mixture of the two, they continue to be one of the hardest components of the climate system for scientists to model accurately. Ground based instruments provide more geographic and temporal coverage of these cloud systems. Instruments on the ground are typically used to obtain - or "retrieve" - measurements that are rela
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Contact: Lynne Roeder
lynne.roeder@pnl.gov
509-521-2922
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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