By Jeremy Pittari, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
Four graduate students from the University of Alabama Huntsville were at the Picayune Municipal airport Tuesday using radar and other technology to study Hurricane Isaac as it makes landfall.
The storm had not strengthened as it was expected as they were setting up, and the students hope to find clues as to why and what forces were at play. Matt Saari said the dry air coming into the storm is keeping the storm’s convection from developing.
The four students, Saari, Stephanie Mullins, Adam Scherrer and Tony Lyza, are studying Atmospheric Science. Their experiment involved setting up a radar truck and several other instruments to record the wind speed, temperature, humidity and the rain size and rate as the storm makes land fall. Saari said the students chose the Picayune airport after looking for a prime location using Internet based maps. Those maps led them to what they believe is a good place to set up the radar.
Data collected from their observations will be sent to the National Weather Service in Slidell, La.
As the storm approaches the coast, Mullins expects to see how the storm will change as it leaves the relatively smooth surface of the Gulf of Mexico and interacts with the rough surface of the Gulf Coast.
Picayune’s airport provides the students with an area that is relatively flat and has few adjacent structures, allowing the radar to detect the weather as it develops farther away. The location also is close to where the storm will make landfall while providing them with a relatively safe place to observe the storm.
“It’s also no too close to the coast, because we don’t want to float away,” Mullins said.
Saari said Isaac will provide them with some unique data since the storm was predicted to be much more organized that it was Tuesday. The four students, three of whom are working on a Master’s Degree while Mullins is a doctoral candidate, will stay in the area for the duration of the storm. During their observations, they hope to learn why some storms form tornadoes and also gather enough information that will lead to better predictions and faster notifications.