Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan

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Professor Posselt featured in NASA article on superstorms

Posted: November 21, 2014

Professor Posselt featured in NASA article on superstorms

Associate Professor Derek Posselt is featured in a NASA Earth Observatory article titled, “Inside the Bering Sea Superstorm.”

The article states that in early November 2014, a superstorm charged across the Bering Sea with record-low pressure, bringing high winds and waves to the region. It even triggered events leading to an extreme cold snap in the central United States. While scientists have a good handle on the processes that cause extratropical cyclones like this one to form, the details of cloud features embedded in these storms are not yet fully understood.

"Extratropical cyclones represent some of the largest and most powerful storm systems on Earth, and produce the majority of fresh water received at middle and high latitudes," Posselt said. "Scientists are currently examining how clouds are not only caused by winter storms, but also feed back on the storm strength and life cycle."

One way that scientists study the cloud-storm relationship is by looking down from above with radar. Pulses of energy from radars are reflected from objects in the path of the radar beam. For example, the radar on NASA's CloudSat is designed specifically to detect the reflections from cloud droplets and ice particles. The more energy that the cloud reflects back to the radar, the more water and ice is contained in the cloud.

"In contrast to every other spaceborne radar, CloudSat enables us to see the details of the middle and upper portions of winter storm clouds, as well as the intense snow bands reaching the surface," Posselt said. "The development of intense small-scale snow bands within a much larger storm system is still a process that is not well understood."

To read the full article, please visit earthobservatory.nasa.gov.

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