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Lake Air and Thunderstorms

Dr. Jason Keeler sitting in a car and looking at information displayed on a computer.Meteorology professor Dr. Jason Keeler along with a CMU undergrad student and a graduate student are conducting research on how the great lakes affect weather, specifically thunderstorms. The research team traveled to Lake Michigan during the summer to collect data for their research.

The first thing the team looked at for their research was atmospheric stability. An unstable atmosphere causes an increased probability of thunderstorms compared to a more stable atmosphere. 

The research team already knew that cooler air over the lake causes the atmosphere to be more stable. What the research team wanted to find out is what happens when lake air moves to land. The team looked at how thermodynamic qualities of the air change, like temperature and humidity.

The research team found that, under some conditions, lake air that moves on to land can become more unstable than air that didn't pass over the lake. This could impact where thunderstorms develop near Lake Michigan. Two elements that can make air more unstable are heat and moisture. So, the air from over the lake already has more moisture in it from the lake and, after the air moves onshore, it warms due to heat from the ground and can become more unstable.

The team is still gathering data for their research and are looking to go back to the lake this summer to obtain more data with new instrumentation.

At CMU We Do Research, We Do Real World

Story by ORGS intern Bailey Talaska

March 2021