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Understanding Severe Thunderstorms and Alberta Boundary Layers Experiment (UNSTABLE)

Study Area: Central Alberta and its foothills

Submitted by: J. Hanesiak

 
Background

The Alberta foothills experience more thunderstorm days than any other region in the Canadian Prairie Provinces. Most storms developing there move eastward to affect the Edmonton to Calgary corridor, one of the most densely populated and fastest-growing regions in Canada. Alberta has proven to be particularly susceptible to costly thunderstorm events; Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada estimate that since 1981 more than 40 lives and $2.5B have been lost due to severe storms. Mainly due to data scarcity, little is known about the controlling mechanisms that can lead to severe storm initiation in the region. Thus, a field project called UNSTABLE in 2008 was designed to address convection initiation (CI) and boundary layer (BL) evolution processes in the area.

 
Project Description

The overall goal of UNSTABLE is to improve the accuracy and lead times of severe thunderstorm watches and warnings through a better understanding of the key processes leading to CI. A high-resolution network of fixed and mobile surface, upper-air, and airborne instruments are being used together toward this goal.

To address the goal, three primary science questions were formulated:

  1. What are the contributions of BL processes to the initiation of deep moist convection and the development of severe thunderstorms over the Alberta foothills region?
  2. What are the contributions of surface processes to the initiation of deep moist convection and the development of severe thunderstorms over the Alberta foothills region?
  3. To what extent can high-resolution numerical weather prediction models contribute to forecasting the initiation and development of severe convective storms that initiate in the Alberta foothills?

 

Reports/Publications

Taylor, N. M., D. M. L. Sills, J. M. Hanesiak, J. A. Milbrandt, C. D. Smith, G. S. Strong, S. H. Skone, P. J. McCarthy, J. C. Brimelow, 2010: The Understanding Severe Thunderstorms and Alberta Boundary Layers Experiment (UNSTABLE) 2008. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 92, 739-763.


Participants

Principal Investigators: Neil Taylor, Dr. David Sills, Dr. John Hanesiak, Dr. Jason Milbrandt, Craig Smith, Dr. Geoff Strong, Dr. Susan Skone, Pat McCarthy

Program Lead: Neil Taylor

 

U Manitoba: Dr. John Hanesiak, Dr. Julian Brimelow, Shannon Bestland (nee Moodie), Jay Anderson

Environment Canada: Neil Taylor, Dr. David Sills, Craig Smith, Pat King, Bruce Cole, Andrew Giles

U Alberta:Dr. Geoff Strong, Danny Brown

U Calgary: Dr. Susan Skone

Weather Modification Inc.: Terry Krauss

 
Funding and/or Other Support:

Environment Canada, NSERC, CFI, University of Manitoba, Alberta Agriculture and Food

 

For more information contact:

Dr. John Hanesiak

Photo2
UNSTABLE project domain. Credit: N. Taylor