NASA ‘snow hunters’ fly above the GTA during Monday’s winter storm

NASA ‘snow hunters’ fly above the GTA during Monday’s winter storm
·1 min read

You’ve heard of storm and hurricane hunters, but how about snow hunters?

A team of NASA scientists recently headed to the Great White North for what we are best known for -- snowstorms. While heavy snowfall and whiteout conditions brought the Greater Toronto Area's (GTA) Monday morning commute to a standstill, NASA’s P-3 Orion flew into the worst of it to conduct the first study of its kind in 30 years.

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In eastern North America, winter storms are frequent events that impact a large percentage of the population, causing public safety concerns and transportation havoc along the roads. Heavy bands of snowfall make up maturely organized winter storms, lacking an understanding in today’s numerical models used for forecasting...until now, that is.

Upon the forecast of Monday’s epic snowstorm, NASA’s IMPACTS Team (Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms) assembled its research aircraft and took aim at the heaviest snow bands.

The flight plan included sections of the Niagara Peninsula, Golden Horseshoe and GTA, extending through to Guelph. Decked out with a sea of onboard instruments, the team measured various data -- all critical to a better understanding of snow particles and the mechanics of a snow band’s life cycle.

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The research is extremely important to meteorologists and the public alike. IMPACT's analysis leads to more accurate snowfall forecasting and modelling, which would have a positive domino effect during the winter season.

Officials would have more time to plan ahead with preventative measures, transportation warnings or closures, and overall an improvement to public safety. This would mean a decrease in the frequency of dangerous situations such as what transpired on Monday.

Thumbnail courtesy of NASA.