November 1, 2015 to January 17, 2016
Project Location: 
Olympic Peninsula, Washington
Project Description: 

The Olympic Mountains Experiment (OLYMPEX) was a ground validation field campaign designed to verify and validate satellite measurements of precipitation from the constellation of satellites known as the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM). The primary goal of OLYMPEX was to validate rain and snow measurements in midlatitude frontal systems moving from ocean to coast to mountains and to determine how remotely sensed measurements of precipitation by GPM can be applied to a range of hydrologic, weather forecasting and climate data. OLYMPEX had a wide variety of ground instrumentation, several radars and aircraft monitoring oceanic storm systems as they approach and traverse the Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic Mountains. The intensive observing period took place from November 2015 through February 2016.

EOL supported OLYMPEX with the deployment of the AVAPS Dropsonde System on the NASA DC-8, one of the two research aircraft involved with this project. The DC-8 flew at approximately 30,000' dropping sondes over the ocean, just offshore of the Olympic Peninsula.The dropsondes will help to characterize the thermodynamic and wind environments of incoming storms, upstream of the ground-based rawinsonde sites near the Washington coast. The soundings will be important for evaluating the robustness of temperature and water vapor assumptions in GPM algorithms.

The Center for Severe Weather Research Doppler on Wheels mobile radar was deployed for this project with the scientific goal of obtaining further data on and testing hypotheses regarding the orographic enhancement of precipitation during frontal passages over mountain ranges.

Read more about the University of Washington/NASA OLYMPEX project.

OLYMPEX in the News

Weather study on Olympic Peninsula employs everything from mules to 'spy planes'
13 Feb 2016 | Peninsula Daily News

An intensive scientific study of how storms behave near and on the Olympic Peninsula employed everything from mules to high-altitude “spy planes” to help calibrate a weather satellite. Initial findings from the Olympic Mountain Experiment, known as OLYMPEX, are scarce.
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Gaps In Coastal Radar System Are Blind Spots For Forecasters and First Responders
12 Feb 2016 | KPLU 88.5

If you ever want to see KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass get passionate, just ask him about the coastal radar system. “Weather radar is one of the most powerful tools that meteorologists have to see what’s going on,” he says. You can hear the excitement in his voice as he makes an analogy to the technology used in modern medicine to see inside patients’ bodies.
>> Read more

Testing satellites aboard NASA's flying laboratory
15 December 2015 | King 5 NBC

NASA doesn't just operate spacecraft. It also operates airplanes, including a one-time airliner known as a DC-8. This now highly modified four-engine jet is helping verify if a new generation of weather satellites is as accurate as designed. Called the GPM, or Global Precipitation Measurement satellite, this new cutting edge technology is designed to precisely calculate how much water is in a storm, be it from rain, snow or ice.
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NASA’s OLYMPEX rain-measuring campaign gets off to a good, soggy start
12 Novmeber 2015 | GeekWire

The weather forecast for the Olympic Peninsula is dark and rainy, and that’s putting the scientists behind NASA’s OLYMPEX campaign in a sunny mood. “The really exciting thing that everyone’s talking about is, there’s this huge rain event that’s coming in,” says Rachael Kroodsma, an atmospheric scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, helping to get a specially outfitted DC-8 plane ready to fly into the storm this week. “There’s a lot of buzz about that. … It’s a good start to the campaign.”
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Scientists tracking rain, snow in soggy Washington state
10 November 2015 | Associated Press

Using everything from a customized DC-8 jetliner to ground radars to 4-inch rain gauges, scientists are fanning out across one of the soggiest places in the United States this month to measure raindrops and snowflakes.
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UW, NASA deploy scientific blitz to study rainy Olympic Peninsula
10 November | The Seattle Times

Rising from the shore of Lake Quinault like a giant mushroom, an 8-foot radar dish clicked and hummed as it scanned rain clouds sweeping up the valley. The light drizzle provided a practice run for the truck-mounted instrument. But the real action was still several hours away.
>> Read more