AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - It can be fascinating to watch the formation of clouds in the sky. Personally, the big billowing clouds that develop into storms in the warm season or snow in the winter.
However. did you know that a great deal of research is underway to learn more about the minute details of cloud formation and the development of precipitation?
That research is being done locally at West Texas A&m University,
“Basically, this is a miniature atmosphere chamber, so we recreate what’s happening in the atmosphere with this 10 liter container," said Naruki Hiranuma, assistant professor of environmental science a WTAMU.
Every cloud droplet, raindrop, snowflake, or hail, stone has a little particle at a center. It’s called an aerosol, it could be dust, salt, soot, or organic material. But knowing more about aerosols helps us to learn more about the behavior of clouds and precipitation.
Hiranuma said what happens in West Texas is particles play a role in the development of rain, sleet and snowflakes.
What makes the study fascinating is that instead of having to go way up in the atmosphere to find clouds, the cloud chamber can actually simulate the atmosphere in cloud formation at any altitude.
“We drop pressure, temperature and duplicate the atmosphere and expand the volume inside of the container. So the aerosol becomes a drop, then becomes ice, just like what’s happening in the atmosphere," said Hiranuma.
The goal of the experiment is to bring the atmosphere to a ground level where scientists like Hiranuma can manipulate particles in real time and understand what is really going on in the sky.
“Going up in the air to cloud level, sounds like a million dollar project with expensive aircraft,” said Hiranuma. "However, we can do the things under the controlled conditions here.”
In time, the research may lead to methods for enhancing rain and even limiting the harmful effects of storms.
“My goal for the West Texas," said Hiranuma. “Is that West Texas suffers from dry conditions. So we need a lot of moisture and we also suffer from hailstones. So I think what my research can lead to would be an understanding of how we can bring the moisture and precipitation here in West Texas, and also what we can do for the hail suppression in the future.”
There are only three cloud chambers like this anywhere in the world, the one that’s been right here at WT to help the research of the atmosphere will travel around the world where atmospheric scientists are going to get answers to help them with their research.
We’re going to learn more about the atmosphere from what started right here at WT now, and that’s good news.