Colorado, US: 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 in the US. 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 US 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.
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, said, “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. In order to ensure greater accuracy of the ground-based measurements, comparisons (validations) are made with more direct airborne measurements. Storm Peak Lab during the experiment will be in-cloud and their array of measurements will be a proxy for aircraft measurements.
“With the modular design of ARM’s second mobile facility, and Storm Peak Lab as the anchor, we can collect the validation data scientists need in a fraction of the time and cost,” said Brad Orr, a scientist at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and the manager of the second ARM mobile facility.
In addition, the National Science Foundation-supported Colorado Airborne Multiphase Cloud Study (CAMPS), led by Dr. Linnea Avalone of the University of Colorado, will provide nearly 100 hours of research flight time over the Steamboat area by the University of Wyoming King Air research aircraft. Instruments and support from the Jet Propulsion Lab are also critical elements of STORMVEX.