As Marylanders buckle down for the winter storm this weekend, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. are sending planes directly into the storm.
The team of storm-chasing scientists is flying two NASA planes equipped with scientific instruments to investigate how winter storms form and develop.
One plane will fly above the storm and the other will fly within the clouds.
The experiment is part of NASA’s Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Storms (IMPACTS) mission, a three-year campaign to collect data on snowstorms.
IMPACTS, the first comprehensive study of snowstorms across the Eastern United States in 30 years, is run out of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, which is managed by Goddard.
Last year, the IMPACTS team sampled a wide variety of storms in the Midwest and along the East Coast, from warm rainstorms to storms with strong cold fronts, but they didn’t see a Nor’easter, according to a news release from Goddard.
During this winter storm, the team will be collecting data on the snow particles and conditions in which they form.
The data will then be used to improve meteorological models and help cities better prepare for severe winter weather.