Scientists sound off on extreme weather

Record weather events across the globe have united the scientific community with a common mission

It takes some advanced science to tackle the extreme weather events of 2014 and beyond. On this week’s TechKnow, we reveal research from outer space to the inner workings of the ocean to expose a trend of the scientific community uniting to understanding the onslaught of severe weather hitting all corners of the world.

TechKnow visits a diverse array of scientists on the forefront of this research encountering some universal trends ranging from land, to sea, to space.  

Dr. Kimberly Prather, Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of San Diego/Scripps Institution of Oceanography, studies sea spray aerosols and their potential impact on the environment. 

"It [takes] the right combination of people who are working in these different areas. As a chemist, I've tried for a long time to study this problem in isolation. Oceanographers study another part of the ocean, atmospheric chemists study a different part of our planet, and here at Scripps we have people studying the atmosphere. We have people studying climate. We have people studying the clouds...having everybody working together is really critical."

Grant Deane, an oceanographer, is the director of the hydraulics lab at Scripps. At his lab, one thing Deane does is gathers water samples and analyzes them for chemical content of the water and how that chemistry ends up in particles. 

"One of the biggest uncertainties in climate models are the formation of clouds and the role of aerosols in forming clouds. If clouds form low, they tend to warm. If they form high, they tend to cool. So we’ve got to figure out whether they’re warming or cooling. It’s very important." 

Nicholas Metz, an assistant professor of geoscience at the Hobart and William Smith Colleges, studies the lake effect phenomenon. 

"I think if you think of climate change and warming, drought makes sense, heat waves make sense, those are the ones that come to my mind first, but also perhaps stronger lake effect snow events so perhaps the globe may be warming but counter intuitively, we could end up with more snow, at least locally in these large events."

John Dumas is the Science Operations Officer at the National Weather Service. TechKnow was at their Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Oxnard, California when a severe storm hit the region.

"(It’s) part of what technology has allowed us to see. We can see a lot of things via satellite. We’ve really started noticing in the last several years that there’s certain systems that happen where there’s thousands of miles long, a strip, basically an atmospheric river, a big river of water in the sky thousands of miles long, maybe ten miles wide…When people talk about what’s a normal rain year for California, it kind of depends on how many of these atmospheric rivers come through." 

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