Posted on 1 Comment

Sunday Story: My IMPACTS NASA Trip!

Forecast_Template - 2020-02-02T080756.799

Weather Headlines

–A beautiful Super Bowl Sunday for us

–Monday will be very warm and breezy

–Heavy rainfall is likely Tuesday through Wednesday (2-4 inches)

Main threats

The main threat facing us this forecast period is the potential for flooding rainfall this week. If you live in a flood-prone area, please pay attention to the weather this week.


Well, the dad-bern groundhog didn’t see his shadow this morning in Pennsylvania. That means an early spring. Take it for what it’s worth (haha). However, he would have seen his shadow here, so we’re just all confused now (ha!).

I still can’t believe this is a thing but who am I to judge? lol


I don’t need a groundhog to tell me that we have a beautiful Sunday in store for us! Be sure and get outside and enjoy it.

Clouds increase tomorrow and that sets the stage for at least a  three to four day rain event. Some of that rainfall will be heavy. By the time all is said and done, we should be looking at widespread rainfall amounts in the 2-4 inch range, with locally higher amounts possible.

Severe weather will threaten the Deep South with this system, but that should stay to our south. Never the less, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some strong storms in our neck of the woods from Tuesday night to Wednesday. I’ll keep an eye on that.

Another weaker disturbance may bring us some showers next weekend but that’s too far out to know much about that. There are indications that yet another big rain maker could arrive a week from tomorrow.  Keep those umbrellas and rain jackets handy!

But not today! Enjoy this beautiful weather!


Forecast_Template - 2020-02-02T081215.596

Baldwin’s 7-Day forecast

Forecast_Template - 2020-02-02T080839.068


On this day in 1952 the only known tropical storm to ever hit the US in the month of February hit southern Florida. The storm moved out of the Gulf of Mexico and across southern Florida with 60 mph winds. The storm also dropped 2-4 inches of rain.

Sunday Story



Last fall, NASA began taking applications for an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the new IMPACTS mission being started at Wallops Island, Virginia. Only 40 people would be accepted from the hundreds who applied. I was fortunate to have been a part of this exclusive group of individuals. 

IMPACTS is a two-year project that will study how East Coast storms produce wintry weather. The acronym stands for Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms. This will be the most comprehensive study of East Coast winter storms in 30 years. The mission requires the use of two planes to study the storms, much like hurricane hunters study hurricanes. 

These big East Coast storms are referred to as Nor’easters. They are so named because winds blow from the northeast onto the coast as these storms make their way northward. Nor’easters cause coastal erosion, flooding, wind damage, and can produce several inches (if not feet) of snowfall. 

While we have been able to forecast the development of Nor’easters for decades, there are enormous challenges to forecasting the exact amounts and location of where snow will fall. This is critical for the East Coast, with so many population centers that number in the millions of people. 

IMPACTS will study different storms in three six-week deployments. One of the main focuses of this mission is studying the character of snow banding within these winter storms. Snow bands develop with many major winter storms, but they are poorly understood. These are linear areas of intense snowfall that lead to localized areas picking up significantly more snow than surrounding areas. 

What researchers learn from these East Coast storms will be applicable to our own winter storms here on the plateau. Snow banding often occurs with our winter storms, creating a forecasting headache. This is often the reason you hear of one community getting much more snowfall than a neighboring community.  

During IMPACTS, the two research planes will have significantly different roles. One of the planes will fly through the storms, dropping instruments that will fall through the storm and collect data, such as wind, temperature, pressure and humidity. One crew member will be responsible for dropping these biodegradable instruments, called dropsondes, into the storm.

The other plane will fly at an incredibly high altitude, far above the storm, at about 68,000 feet. That plane will behave like a satellite, as it gathers information from devices that will practically x-ray the storm. This will allow scientists to better understand the inner workings of the storm system. 

As a meteorologist for the Cumberland Plateau, I had to ask about what they might learn from freezing rain, sleet, and that all-too-important rain-snow line that so often affects our region. I was excited to hear that they are hoping to gather information that will help us better understand those things as well. 

IMPACTS will also help create better global snow maps. Today, satellites do a decent job estimating global rainfall. However, maps of snowfall are mediocre, at best. It’s easier for satellites to estimate the impact of a raindrop because raindrops are all about the same size and shape. Snowflakes, on the other hand, come in all shapes and sizes, making it very difficult for satellites to quantify their accumulative effects. 

One of the more exciting benefits of this project is that the data collected by these planes will be utilized by computer weather models. Current models are challenged by winter storms. The data collected from these missions will go toward improving computer modeling of winter storms that will be beneficial for all of us. 

Winter weather can be a beautiful sight but it can also wreak havoc with transportation, power grids, and public safety. With a better forecast of this kind of weather, those responsible for preparing us for these events can do an even better job, so that we make it through the storm safely. 

Let’s wish the IMPACTS mission much safety and success with these flights! I can’t wait to see what is discovered with this exciting mission!


1 thought on “Sunday Story: My IMPACTS NASA Trip!

  1. REgarding Groundhog day:
    Students would sometimes ask if the groundhog predictions are true.
    I used to always answer “NO” … however …
    While the legend may not be true meteorologically, there may be some climatological truth which allows the legend to continue.
    If nothing else, it could be a “teaching moment”.
    Please see my presentation below:

Leave a Reply