The new knowledge developed as a result of basic research about the earth's biogeochemical system is transformed by atmospheric and environmental sciences students and scientists into practical applications. For example, information gained through linked observations and models in the Black Hills is being used to predict when and where lightning-caused fires are likely to occur. In addition, our scientists and students make field measurements during active fires using portable, solar-powered mesonet stations specifically deployed in the area of the fire, which are integrated with larger-scale observations and models generated and maintained by the National Weather Service in order to help deploy fire-fighting resources for maximum safety and effectiveness.
Our department strives to improve our understanding of the earth's natural ecosystems using observations made on a variety of platforms, such as a microwave radiometer, aircraft, and atmospheric soundings. These observations focus on specific phenomena such as lightning and severe storms and are linked to complex numerical models used to predict short- and long-term system behavior. Current modeling studies focus on hailstorms, thunderstorm electrification (including lightning), precipitation processes, their modification by cloud seeding, winter orographic clouds, and marine boundary-layer clouds.
Mesoscale research has focused on the study of factors governing the initiation and organization of convective storms, mesoscale cloud systems, and topographic effects on airflow and precipitation. Recent work has included analysis of severe wind-producing convective storms and observational studies of bow echoes and supercell storms carried out jointly with the National Weather Service, Rapid City, to increase the understanding of these storms and to improve forecasting.
Another area of continuing research is the study of the influences of surface conditions, especially moisture availability, on mesoscale weather and climate. Related numerical modeling studies include the coupling of atmospheric, surface, and subsurface hydrologic processes in mesoscale models. Work is underway on remote sensing of land surface properties and processes and the use of remotely sensed data to initialize mesoscale models. New areas of work include the application of high-resolution mesoscale models to incident meteorology (as in wildfires) and local-scale ensemble forecasting. Global cloud and aerosol properties are being retrieved from satellite data, and their influence upon the earth's radiation budget and climate change is under study. Access to the supercomputer facilities at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, has been of great value in running the larger cloud models.