NASA: Measuring atmospheric rivers from air and Space

NASA's ER-2 instrumented research aircraft is supporting CalWater 2015, a multiagency, interdisciplinary field campaign, designed to improve the understanding of when and how California ends up on the receiving end of atmospheric rivers. Atmospheric rivers are short-lived weather events that carry a flood of moisture from the tropics to the U.S. West Coast. The instrument also measures how much rain these events can bring, which is a crucial concern in the state’s ongoing historic drought.

Next to three other research aircrafts, the ER-2 will only start when an atmospheric river event is detected. It will fly at about 20 kilometers, above 94 percent of Earth's atmosphere, and carry four scientific instruments designed and managed at NASA. A research ship will make complementary measurements from the ocean surface and while NASA RapidScat mission on the International Space Station will collect related data from Space.

"We're adding a unique remote sensing component to the campaign," said David Diner, principal investigator for AirMSPI, one of the onboard instruments. "It's exciting for us to coordinate with other aircraft that are flying at lower altitudes and with surface facilities, and to contribute the contextual view that we get from the high altitude."

CalWater 2015 will run until the end of February.