What Are NASA Researchers Testing in Iowa?



By Aaron Hepker

IOWA CITY, Iowa —NASA is working to improve how satellites predict rainfall so it can better predict flooding, and the agency is bring the experiments to Iowa.

Workers will test how well satellites measure precipitation from space. They plan to conduct the testing in northeastern Iowa from May 1 to June 15.

"We're trying to figure out how well our satellites estimate rainfall," said Walt Petersen, a NASA scientist working on the project. "This study is unique in that it takes space-borne observations, it takes ground-based observations, and it brings those things into a modeling framework that should further our ability to predict flooding."

The field tests are a partnership between NASA and the Iowa Flood Center at the University of Iowa. The center improves monitoring of stream and river heights to develop better flood maps.

The experiments will use satellites passing Iowa and a network of ground instruments including rain gauges to measure soil moisture, temperatures as well as raindrop number, size and shape. Radar will be used to help measure the rain as it falls, researchers said.

"Here in Iowa, we have basins of varied sizes that are well instrumented compared to some other parts of the country," said Krajewski.

Researchers said that's one reason that NASA chose Iowa for its field campaign.

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