Does It Rain or Snow More Around Airports?

Posted July 11th, 2011 at 7:25 pm (UTC+0)
1 comment

on Jan. 29, 2007. These unusual gaps in clouds are often caused by aircraft under certain atmospheric conditions. (NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of hole-punch and canal clouds. (NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center)

Do you live near an airport?  Does it seem like you get more rain and snow than folks who live further away?

There just might be a scientific reason for that.

A new study finds that areas around airports are more likely to experience increased rain or snow when aircraft are landing or taking off.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) led the study as a part of its ongoing investigation into hole-punch and canal clouds, which are said to form when aircraft move through certain mid-level clouds.

When flying through the clouds, the planes force the air nearby to expand and cool rapidly. This causes the water droplets within the cloud to freeze – first into ice and then snow – as the precipitation falls toward the ground.

Afterward, the clouds are often left with odd-shaped gaps, which make it look as if someone used a giant hole-punch on the cloud.

The researchers observed this effect at a number of major commercial airports including London’s Heathrow,  Germany’s Frankfurt Airport, Charles De Gaulle in Paris, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare, Yellowknife Airport in the Northwest Territories of Canada as well as Byrd Station in Antarctica.

A Hole Punch Cloud over Alabama - (photo courtesy of:  Gary Beeler, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service Mobile, Alabama)

A hole-punch cloud over Alabama  (Photo courtesy of Gary Beeler, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service Mobile, Alabama)

The researchers think this phenomenon, which some consider inadvertent cloud seeding, occurs at a number of other airports as well, especially those located in mid- to high-latitude areas during colder months.

One element that seems to be a key variable is whether there are cloud layers in the vicinity which contain water droplets at temperatures far below freezing, which is quite common.

The study team says more research is needed to determine whether the precipitation produced by this effect is significant.

The NCAR researchers were assisted -  and the study  co-authored – by NASA’s Langley Research Center and the University of Wyoming, Laramie. The study was published this week in the journal Science.

Watch a video on this study here…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5b7abSuTlG8

One Response to “Does It Rain or Snow More Around Airports?”

  1. Idowu says:

    NCAR should please do more research on this and explain more. I wil like to know

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