Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Chasing Thundersnow

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Chasing Thundersnow

Article excerpt

The job of one University of Missouri researcher could chill him to the bone, but his research could make weather predicting more accurate. Patrick Market, associate professor of atmospheric science in the university's College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, is chasing storms in the dead of winter to release weather balloons that will produce data about the little-known phenomenon of thundersnow. "One of the things we do not understand is how the cloud becomes electrified," Market says. "We hope to determine how the atmosphere is becoming unstable."

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Market and his storm-chasing students are searching for winter storms to release weather balloons into every 90 minutes over 24-hour periods. The balloons carry boxes with a barometer to measure pressure, a thermometer to measure temperature, and a hydrometer to measure humidity. Market uses a global positioning system to monitor wind speed and direction of the balloons. This information covers the five things that are most important for a meteorologist to know for accurate predictions, according to Market.

"It has been decades since a detailed study with modern weather balloons has been done to see how the atmosphere destabilizes for summer thunderstorms, much less the winter storms," Market says. …

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