The weather research teams waited anxiously for the nighttime storms to appear over the Great Plains. Scientists know very little about how the storms form but they do know how the rainfall from these storms sustains lives, property, agriculture and water resources. So the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and more than 100 scientists gathered this summer in Kansas with truckloads of gear to study nocturnal thunderstorms that bring a majority of the summer rainfall to the Great Plains.
Daytime and nighttime storms require the same components to form. But at night, after the sun sets, the ground cools and the air becomes more stable. This creates conditions that are less favorable for the formation of thunderstorm. Convection – the instability of warm air rising and cool air sinking – is key to thunderstorm formation. With the Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN), project scientists are learning what triggers these nighttime storms.
I had a front row seat to the action, spending countless nights in the field with different weather research teams. I captured their search made with weather balloons, hurricane planes and mobile radar trucks.
(Click on any photo to begin the slideshow.)
Photo at top: Researchers parked their mobile weather radars from the University of Oklahoma and NOAA in a hotel parking lot in Lincoln, Nebraska. They collected storm data late into the night for the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) weather research project. (Lizz Giordano/Medill)
Lizz Giordano joined the research teams as a Medill embedded reporting scholar. The scholarships are supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York.
One of the closest elections runoffs in recent Chicago history might not be decided even after all the ballots are tallied Tuesday.
A fiercely fought campaign for 10th Ward alderman has ended up in court after both candidates filed for a recount with the Cook County Circuit Court. As of Monday, challenger and political newcomer Susan Sadlowski Garza leads incumbent Alderman John A. Pope by 33 votes, according to the Chicago Board of Elections. The final absentee and provisional ballots still need to be rolled into the totals for the Tuesday deadline.
Tuesday is the last day for the Chicago Board of Elections to process the remaining absentee and provisional ballots. Continue reading →
By Lizz Giordano
Engineers and astronomers at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of South Texas are hoping their view of 1 million galaxies will shed some light on dark energy. Scientists link this mysterious and unseen energy that permeates the cosmos to the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Technology advancements are opening up entirely new parts of the skies for astronomers to study. Engineers at the McDonald Observatory are upgrading The Hobby-Eberly Telescope in preparation for their first major experiment to search for dark energy.
Over the next three years, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment will collect data on 1 million galaxies that are 9 to 11 billion light years away. Through these observations, astronomers will be able to measure how fast the universe was expanding at different times in its history.
Video by Lizz Giordano/Medill
How the Hobby-Eberly Telescope will search for dark energy. Scripted by Lizz Giordano/Medill; Produced by Next Media Animation.
Photo at top: The night sky at the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. LIzz Giordano//Medill