The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) began a month-long test last week aimed at better predicting when and where thunderstorms might tear their way across Colorado’s Front Range and adjacent Great Plains region. The research uses high-altitude aircraft to improve storm lead times, especially in the crucial six- to 24-hour window before storm formation.
The Mesoscale Predictability Experiment (MPex-pronounced “em-pex”), funded by the National Science Foundation, includes early-morning flights with the NSF/NCAR Gulfstream V to sample the pre-storm atmosphere across Colorado and nearby states. In MPex, the aircraft cruise at 40,000 feet for up to six hours, enabling researchers to canvass the region thoroughly for severe-weather triggers.
MPex will also include afternoon launches of weather balloons carrying radiosondes (equipment packages) to profile conditions around developing thunderstorms.