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NASA-Enhanced Dust Storm Predictions to Aid Health Community
Date:10/28/2008

and to water, and surface roughness.

"Dust modeling always has relied on surface characteristics that we knew were wrong," Sprigg said.

For instance, information in previous models about a region's features was patched together from old maps and topographic surveys, which do not accurately represent seasonal or cyclical changes in vegetation and related surface features.

Through PHAiRS, up-to-date measurements of Earth's surface features -- collected from instruments on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites -- provided the critical details needed to enhance an existing dust model. Observations of Earth from space offer more complete information, filling in the gaps between the locations of surface measurements and providing up-to-date snapshots of changing surface features.

The team began with an existing model Slobodan Nickovic of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva developed that describes how dust is lifted off the ground and carried in the atmosphere. Researchers coupled this model with an operational weather forecast model the U.S. National Weather Service created. The team adapted the model to accommodate dust storms in the U.S. Southwest and then introduced the new satellite-derived measurements.

After using the new model to make hourly dust forecasts for California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas during dust events, the team compared their results to real-world observations. They found that the NASA data improved the model estimates of wind speed, direction, near-surface temperature, and the location and amount of dust lifted off the ground. Statistics for the model's performance show that between January and April 2007, the timing of two out of three dust storms in Phoenix could be forecasted precisely.

Already, public health professionals have been enlisted to work with the PHAiRS team to assess the model's real-world utility. The team is collaborating with physicians, public health experts and community lea
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SOURCE NASA
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