CW3E Talks Atmospheric Rivers with UC San Diego Students

February 2, 2023

CW3E Lead Engineer Douglas Alden provided an engaging presentation on water supply, meteorological instrumentation, storm sampling and atmospheric rivers for UC San Diego undergraduate students. The students are enrolled in SIO 172: Physics of the Atmosphere, taught by CW3E research collaborator Dr. Joel Norris. They learned some of the many ways which CW3E is working with partners to improve reservoir water storage through research into atmospheric rivers and associated extreme precipitation. Observations are a critical part of this work, and the students participated in a radiosonde launch from the Scripps Pier. Radiosondes are used by CW3E to study atmospheric river development and strength. During storm events, CW3E launches radiosondes from multiple locations in California. Radiosondes are carried aloft by helium-filled balloons and collect data from the surface up to approximately 25,000 meters (82,000 feet) on air temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, and winds. The students also were able to handle a dropsonde. Dropsonde data are used for similar analyses as the radiosonde data. Dropsondes are released from aircraft flying over the Pacific Ocean during Atmospheric River Reconnaissance (AR Recon) missions. All CW3E radiosonde and dropsonde data are sent into the Global Telecommunications System and included in weather modeling efforts around the globe such as the National Centers for Environmental Prediction’s (NCEP) Global Forecast System (GFS), North American Mesoscale Forecast System (NAM), and Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS), and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Integrated Forecast System (IFS). The use of dropsondes over the Pacific Ocean has been shown to significantly improve weather forecast models for atmospheric rivers expected to hit the west coast of the United States. After the weather sounding from the pier had completed the data were provided to the students for class analysis and discussion. CW3E appreciated the opportunity to get to know the students and introduce them to our work!

Figure 1: CW3E Lead Engineer Douglas Alden talks to UC San Diego undergraduate students assisting with radiosonde launch.

Figure 2: Skew-T plot of sounding data.