NASA targets snowstorms in new balloon study

Snowstorms: Man holds large white balloon in falling snow while standing in deep snow.
Scientist Andrew Janiszeski braved the great blizzard of January 2022, to pose for a photo before attempting a weather balloon launch near Geneseo, New York. A radiosonde hangs below the weather balloon, which will collect data as the balloon rises and then parachute back down after the balloon pops. NASA is targeting snowstorms in a new study. Image via Troy Zaremba/ NASA.

EarthSky 2022 lunar calendars now available! Order now. Going fast!

Weather balloons and snowstorms

Sofie Bates shared a fun blog post at this week (February 7, 2022). She described efforts to collect data on snowstorms in the eastern U.S. as part of a new NASA study. NASA recently deployed teams on the ground and in the air to gather data during the great North American blizzard of January 2022. One of the researchers, Andrew Janiszeski, is a grad student at the University of Illinois. He traveled to Plymouth, Massachussets, to participate in the study. He described the team’s first attempt at a balloon launch in a blizzard:

It went 15 feet (5 meters) up, caught a gust of wind, did a loop, dove down, almost hit a car, rag dolled around a tree, went over a gas station, and popped.

Janiszeski and his teammate, Troy Zaremba, also of the University of Illinois, then tried again … with the same result. Later in the day the winds subsided some, with gusts still at 40 miles (65 km) an hour. So they tried again. The balloon took off, flipping in circles three times before finally rising upward and out of sight. They ended up with five successful balloon launches. Janiszeski said:

It was a miracle. I really thought we were going to get a whopping zero balloons up at the beginning of the day. This was, without the remotest doubt, the most severe conditions we’ve experienced during [this study so far]. I was getting a little pessimistic, but five radiosondes in a storm like that … We’ll take it as a win.

These scientists were participating in a new NASA mission called IMPACTS (Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms). Scientists hope to get a better grip on how heavy snow bands form. They hope to improve forecasts for these extreme weather events.

Read more via Sofie Bates at NASA.

Bottom line: NASA is conducting its first study of snowstorms in the eastern United States in 30 years, with the help of scientists, weather balloons, aircraft and more.

Read more: 10 places to find snow beyond Earth

February 9, 2022

Like what you read?
Subscribe and receive daily news delivered to your inbox.

Your email address will only be used for EarthSky content. Privacy Policy
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

More from 

Kelly Kizer Whitt

View All