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MRI: Acquisition of Upper-Air and Surface Observing Systems for Weather Research and Instruction at SUNY Oswego

This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) award will be used to acquire surface and upper air meteorological equipment with a focus on lake-effect weather research. The State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego campus, with its proximity to Lake Ontario, is an ideal location to carry out research on the effects of lake-land-air interactions. The mobile upper-air facilities will allow the study of the structure and evolution of mesoscale meteorological systems. Since there is a lack of surface weather stations in the immediate vicinity of the Great Lakes, the SUNY Oswego site will provide a robust database for sampling lake-modified air. These facilities will allow SUNY Oswego faculty and students to engage in a nearly continuous, low-cost field project around Lake Ontario and enable researchers at Oswego and other institutions to compare model output with observations near Oswego. Students participating in research projects as well as meteorology majors enrolled in the required experimentation laboratory will benefit by learning how to operate modern meteorological observing systems and perform quality control of the data. <br/><br/>Intellectual merit: Lake-effect snow bands form as the result of complex interactions between processes ranging from the cloud scale to the synoptic scale. Numerical models have provided some insight into the structure and evolution of these snow bands, but direct observations have been limited. With the acquired observing systems, the Principal Investigator will be able to identify where mesoscale models succeed or fail to represent important details of the thermodynamic structure and circulation patterns in and around these bands. This will help modelers evaluate the many boundary layer and microphysics schemes available, and identify those which best reproduce the observed structure and evolution of lake-effect snow bands. Improvement in model physics should result in more accurate simulations of snow band location, inland extent and precipitation rate. It is hypothesized that the upper-air soundings at Oswego during lake-effect conditions will result in more accurate snow band simulations. To test this hypothesis, sensitivity experiments using mesoscale models will be conducted to determine the impact of assimilating the Oswego data. With the new facilities at SUNY Oswego, the Principal Investigator expects to sample close to the core of at least 50 snow bands over the next decade. In late spring or summer, the radiosonde equipment will be used to obtain proximity soundings near Great Plains thunderstorms. At other times during the year, the lakeside location will allow sampling of the atmospheric environment around other interesting phenomena such as waterspouts, thunderstorms, frontal passages, lake and land breezes, and nocturnal low-level jets. Findings for Lake Ontario will likely extend to other large bodies of water. <br/><br/>Broader impacts: Acquisition of the equipment will strengthen the ability to conduct research on weather phenomena around Lake Ontario and improve educational activities centered on these phenomena. The increased understanding of important mesoscale weather could result in improved forecasting of hazardous weather conditions. Data and results will be shared with interested scientists. The PI will collaborate with researchers from other institutions who wish to use the Oswego facilities for short-term, low-cost field studies near Lake Ontario. The SUNY Oswego meteorology program has involved undergraduates in research since its inception. Interesting phenomena, especially lake-effect snowstorms and Great Plains thunderstorms, excite and attract students including those from diverse backgrounds. Many students engage in independent study projects and are eager to participate in internally and externally-funded grants. The equipment acquired under this MRI will provide more research opportunities for these students.

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