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Thunderstorm Research Project Stories
Thunderstorm Research Project

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thunderstorm research project

The Weather Bureau during 1945 initiated a project for study of the development and structure of individual thunderstorm cells. Other agencies which will cooperate in this project are the Army Air Forces; the Navy; the Aircraft Loads Division of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics; Meteorology Department of the University of Chicago; Physics Department , University of New Mexico; Electronics Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the Soaring Society of America. The study, it now appears, will begin near Orlando, Florida.

map showing project area
Project area in Florida - 1946

Observations and measurements in thunderstorms will be obtained over an area of about sixty square miles in the Orlando locality by means of airplane and glider flights, three radiosonde and several radar stations, and approximately fifty surface recording stations.

The Army Air Forces will provide properly modified airplanes, with crews, for the thunderstorm project. The planes, to be in operation three out of every five days, will fly simultaneously in the thunderstorm at 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, and 25,000 feet and will be carefully tracked and directed by means of radar and VHF radio. Five planes are to operate together in each thunderstorm mission. If possible, the planes will be of a type capable of carrying an observer, in addition to pilot and co-pilot.

The Navy will investigate the possibility of using “drones,” radio-controlled planes directed either from the ground or from another plane, to carry recording equipment and to provide preliminary tests of thunderstorm flyability. The Navy will carry out a program fro the utilization of drones in the project, if tests indicate the feasibility of such a program.

Balloons will be released in large numbers during thunderstorm conditions. These will consist of small balloons carrying conventional rawin targets for determining the horizontal circulation of various levels in the thunderstorm; radiosondes for obtaining the thermodynamic details of the thunderstorm; and radio transmitting balloons equipped for measuring turbulence, rate of climb and vertical air speed. All balloons will be tracked by radar. Special mobile radiosonde units will perform the balloon observations.

Radar equipment will be used, not only for tracking airplanes and balloons, but also fro study of water content and extent of thunder clouds.

The fifty ground stations, to be located in an area not exceeding twenty miles in diameter, will be self-recording station units consisting of microbarographs, wind vane – anemometer, hygrothermograph and recording rain gage.

Research for the project will be carried on at the University of Chicago, the Naval Research Laboratory, operating through the Precipitation Static Project at Minneapolis, the University of New Mexico, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Aircraft Loads Division of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The Soaring Society of American will work on the possibility of sailplane flight in thunderstorms.

Overall coordination of research and coordination of work between various governmental and non-governmental participants in the project will be a responsibility of the Weather Bureau. The Bureau will also provide such personnel and equipment for the project as may be needed to supplement that furnished by the Army and the Navy.

Mr. Lawrence M. Dye, Bureau Meteorologist, will spend the week of January 9 in Orlando to discuss the project with the Weather Office at the Army Airfield and to arrange with various property owners in the vicinity for establishment of ground stations on their lands.

In: “The BREEZE”, Vol. 2, No. 12, January 10, 1946. Pp. 1-2.

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