Rain-measuring mission gets a good, soggy start

Image: DC-8
Members of a NASA Social group at Joint Base Lewis-McChord get ready to tour a DC-8 plane that NASA is using to document rainfall on the Olympic Peninsula. (GeekWire photo: Alan Boyle)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — The weather forecast for the Olympic Peninsula is dark and rainy, and that’s putting the scientists behind NASA’s OLYMPEX campaign in a sunny mood.

“The really exciting thing that everyone’s talking about is, there’s this huge rain event that’s coming in,” says Rachael Kroodsma, an atmospheric scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, helping to get a specially outfitted DC-8 plane ready to fly into the storm this week. “There’s a lot of buzz about that. … It’s a good start to the campaign.”

Usually, bad weather is bad news.

Not for OLYMPEX, the Olympic Mountain Experiment.

Under the leadership of NASA and the University of Washington, the months-long effort is using aerial observations as well as a bevy of radars and rain gauges to validate orbital data from the Global Precipitation Measurement satellite, also known as GPM. The $3 million campaign is the latest of several field studies aimed at making sure the satellite readings reflect ground truth.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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