Office of University Relations
SDSM& T News
501 E. St. Joseph Street • Rapid City, SD 57701- 3995
Phone: ( 605) 394- 6082/ 2554 • Fax: ( 605) 394- 6177
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2000
HIGH TECHNOLOGY MEETS THE HIGH PLAINS IN STEPS- 2000
Those tapered, bell- shaped thunderstorms that grace so many calendars and posters are not just photogenic, they are a scientific mystery. These low precipitation supercells are notable for their spectacular cloud formations and sparse rainfall and typically occur across the High Plains instead of over more densely populated areas – a reason they have traditionally been ignored.
Scientists now realizing the unique storm system may hold a key to understanding the microphysics and electrification of other kinds of thunderstorms are converging on Goodland, Kansas this summer to study the scientific mystery.
Seven individuals from the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology will deploy for Goodland this Sunday to participate in the National Science Foundation funded Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study ( STEPS). The Tech scientists will use their Armored T- 28 aircraft to fly into the storms and monitor the electric fields, and storm particles. One individual will pilot the plane, while instruments mounted on the outside will collect the data that will be recorded on a Pentium PC computer. The data collected will lend more insight into how to interpret the other information collected through different means.
“ The project is dependent upon what Mother Nature decides to deal us this summer,” said Dr. Andrew Detwiler, Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Atmospheric Sciences, SDSM& T. “ We are meeting in Goodland because over the past ten years the area has one of the nation’s highest frequencies of lightning flashes and with any luck history will repeat itself this year.”
STEPS will take place between May 22 – July 16, 2000. Involved organizations include the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Colorado State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, University of Oklahoma, National Severe Storms Laboratory, National Weather Service, FMA Research, Inc., and SDSM& T. The project will be the largest research effort to date focused on lightning. If STEPS can follow a storm as it produces a tornado, the link between a storm’s electrical behavior and microphysics should become a lot clearer, say atmospheric scientists.
Those participating in STEPS from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology are Co- Principle Investigators Dr. Detwiler and Dr. John Helsdon, Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Institute of Atmospheric Sciences ( IAS); Dr. Qixu Mo, T- 28 post- doc and Research Scientist, IAS; Donna Kliche, Research Scientist and PRIME Program Coordinator; Gary Johnson, Research Scientist, IAS; Charlie Summers, pilot and chief aircraft mechanic, IAS; Tom Root, pilot and Research Scientist, IAS; and Tom Warner, pilot and Research Scientist, IAS.
The group from Tech will be departing this Sunday, May 21 for Goodland, Kansas. To find out more about the field project before they depart, contact Dr. Andrew Detwiler at 605.394.2291. After Sunday Dr. Detwiler can be contacted at 785.899.3621 in Goodland.
( I: univrel/ pressrel/ 0500 STEPS fxd stwd)
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