By Tom Spears
Egbert, Ontario . . . the Final Frontier.
This hamlet west of Lake Simcoe is where NASA sent its latest manned mission — scientists studying how snow falls.
The agency has a flying laboratory aboard a DC-8 aircraft, and has been flying joint missions with Environment Canada to fill gaps in our knowledge of how falling snow is measured.
Ordinary weather radar can show where snow is falling, and whether it’s a light flurry or major whiteout. But there are unknowns — for example, how much water is contained in that snow. That’s important to know in a world where fresh water is valuable and sometimes scarce.
Ordinary radar can’t tell dense, wet snow from powder.
As well, it can be tough to measure flakes that are blowing around as they fall. Rain comes down steadily. Snow can swirl around, blow sideways, and take its time falling.
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