Predicting A Snow Storm
Reported April 2011
SALT LAKE CITY (Ivanhoe Newswire) --The words "snow storm" struck fear into the hearts of folks all over the U.S this winter. How much is coming? How heavy will it be? Will I be able to get out of my driveway? Now, scientists in Utah have come up with a formula to answer those questions, more accurately than ever.
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Trying to predict snowfall and snow density is a tough job that just got easier. University of Utah atmospheric scientist, Jim Steenburgh and Trevor Alcott came up with a mathematical formula to predict snow.
“It's something that meteorologists have struggled with for quite a while, and so to have an automated system like we have right now at the National Weather Service that brings this in to the forecast system is really a nice step forward for them,” Dr. Jim Steenburgh, Atmospheric Scientist at the University of Utah told Ivanhoe.
The National Weather Service started using Dr. Steenburgh's formula this year. Researchers took snowfall data from 457 storms at Alta ski resort. They found that temperature and wind determine how much snow falls and its density, or snow to liquid ratio. An SLR of 10 to one means 10 inches of snow, for every one inch of water or drier, powdery snow.
“We were able to turn that into a program that we've put into our computer system, so we can apply that algorithm and get a snowfall forecast. So the answer is both, more accurate and easier,” Larry Dunn, Meteorologist at the National weather Service added.
It’s great news for skiers, but also for avalanche forecasters. Heavy snow on top of light snow can slide, and now, cities use can better prepare for plowing roads. Dr. Steenburgh loves that his formula got from the classroom to the weather center so fast.
“We're always excited to do science that actually has an impact on society. We live in an ivory tower, and any time we can help out the people, the public, it's a great thing,” Dr. Steenburgh concluded.
Meteorologists couldn't agree more. More and more meteorologists in the interior mountain states are using Dr. Steenburgh's formula to more accurately predict snowfall and density. With some adjustments of data, the system should be usable in other parts of the Snowbelt as well.
The Meteorological Society, the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Association of America, the American Statistical Association and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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