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CIRA, atmospheric scientists lead national discussion on Hurricane Isaac

August 30, 2012

While Hurricane Isaac was bearing down on Louisiana and the U.S. Gulf Coast Wednesday morning, Kate Musgrave at CSU was leading a discussion on Isaac and other weather conditions around the globe for U.S. hurricane scientists.

A true-color image of Hurricane Isaac making landfall near the Louisiana coast, taken from the NOAA/NASA NPP Mission (Image credit: Dan Lindsey/RAMMB/NOAA).  Musgrave, a post-doctoral researcher who obtained her doctorate at CSU, led the discussion from CSU’s Foothills Campus as part of a joint teleconference with the Hurricane Research Division in Miami.

CIRA capturing data for scientists globally

About 20 CSU atmospheric scientists and graduate students participated in the call including Musgrave, who works with Mark DeMaria, Ph.D. and a NOAA scientist and expert on hurricanes based at CSU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere or CIRA. CIRA is a collaboration between NOAA and CSU to improve understanding of weather and weather forecasting.

DeMaria, a research meteorologist at NOAA, is one of the nation’s top hurricane scientists. He conducted a study with the National Hurricane Center that showed relatively cool waters just below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico – within 150 miles of land – cause the most intense hurricanes to almost always lose intensity before they hit that part of the U.S. coastline. The findings could help scientists more accurately forecast hurricanes.

On Wednesday, Musgrave talked through real-time images of the storm taken from satellites in orbit, hurricane aircraft and surface radars on ocean buoys and along the coastline. The forecasting helps the researchers who fly into hurricanes understand the conditions they’re facing.

“These briefings allow them to plan their operations,” DeMaria said. “They want to know what’s going on right now or even over a week’s time.”

“Our main focus is satellite information so we take the data we’re getting from those satellites and turn it into products that can be used for different research groups and the forecasters, including statistical models for assessing hurricane impacts,” Musgrave said. “We can look at smoke from fires, hot spots, dust from Africa and how that’s impacting local storms that can be developing. We have this information available through websites. We also distribute this data directly to various organizations that need it.”

“We continue to try to do better and better and know that these efforts do impact people downstream,” Musgrave said. “I’m from the Florida area – it’s neat to know we’re making something that can help at some point.”

Contact: Emily Wilmsen
Phone: (970) 491-2336