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Expertise from West Coast Extreme Precipitation Studies Expands to the Southeast US
June 14, 2013
ESRL Physical Sciences Division researchers involved in NOAA's Hydrometeorology Testbd (HMT) are gearing up a 1½-year long pilot study in North Carolina to improve understanding and forecasting of dangerous storms that can lead to flooding. Instrumentation being installed for HMT-Southeast will span the state from the coastline to the mountains and shed light on the atmospheric environments that characterize high-impact weather events – from tropical storms to summertime thunderstorms. A coastal field site in New Bern will provide insight into landfalling tropical systems and coastal processes that drive inland rainfall, and locations in the middle of the state will further understanding of the complex boundaries that set up in this region and ultimately determine the location and intensity of rainfall. The largest concentration of instruments will be located in the upper Catawba river basin of western North Carolina and will closely examine watershed-specific questions including investigating the role of the Appalachian mountains in driving heavy rainfall. This project is strongly focused on using connections from scientific and decision-making communities to help transition new research, tools, and instrumentation into operational use by forecast offices.
HMT conducts research on atmospheric conditions that can potentially lead to flooding and fosters transition of scientific advances and new tools into forecasting operations. The HMT concept consists of a series of demonstration projects in different geographical regions to enhance understanding of region-specific processes related to precipitation. The first HMT regional demonstration (HMT-West) began in 2004 and focused on the West Coast of the U.S.
For the southeast pilot study, instruments from NOAA, from a collaborative NASA study occurring in the same vicinity, and from existing operational and academic institutions will be used. HMT's research partners include local National Weather Service forecast offices, national, state and local environmental agencies, and university research groups. Cooperation between HMT and these partner groups has enhanced the overall project scope, and has even resulted in restored operability of some existing instruments that had been in need of repair.
Better understanding of regional atmospheric processes helps improve the accuracy and lead-time of forecasts. Advance information about potentially damaging or life-threatening storms is critical for informing water managers, emergency personnel, and the public at-large. A unique community of users that may also benefit from this information include researchers from universities and government laboratories, forecasters, and hydrologists.