Lynn McMurdie
Mark Stone/University of Washington
Atmospheric scientist Lynn McMurdie is leading the NASA IMPACTS field campaign, the largest study of Northeast snowstorms to date.

Snowstorms can wreak havoc across the United States, but especially on the East Coast. Snow is the least-understood form of precipitation, with major snowstorms among the most difficult weather events to forecast. Yet people rely on these forecasts to stay safe, plan travel routes and decide whether to close schools or businesses.

To better understand large, disruptive snowstorms, a University of Washington atmospheric scientist will lead a NASA field campaign this winter to fly through major snowstorms along the East Coast. The multi-institutional team will observe snow as it forms in clouds to help with satellite monitoring of snowfall and ultimately improve forecasts.

“In a big snowstorm, the snow is not evenly distributed. Some places really get hammered, but others, even close by, don’t get nearly as much. We want to understand the processes behind that,” said principal investigator Lynn McMurdie, a UW research associate professor of atmospheric sciences.

The NASA Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Storms, or IMPACTS campaign, will be based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast. The six-week campaign runs Jan. 15 through late February 2020, with additional campaigns in the same region in the winters of 2021 and 2022.

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