Mar 30, 2018 | By Benedict

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released a video depicting a 3D visualization of melting snowflakes in the atmosphere. The 3D model could lead to a better understanding of how snow melts and thus improved hazard prevention.

This 3D snowflake model could help NASA understand weather behavior

(Image: NASA)

Google “snowflake” these days and you’re more likely to find abuse of young liberals than meteorological studies, but the study of snowflakes remains highly important in predicting weather and ensuring human safety in dangerous conditions.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, based in Pasadena, California, recently put together a 3D numerical model of melting snowflakes in the atmosphere, a model that could provide a better understanding of how snow melts.

With this new 3D visualization, NASA staff—led by scientist Jussi Leinonen—are hoping to improve their ability to detect heavier, wetter snow via radar signals. (Heavier snow can break power lines and knock down trees, and is therefore a major safety hazard.)

According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists, the 3D model reproduces key features of melting snowflakes that have been observed in nature. “First, meltwater gathers in any concave regions of the snowflake's surface,” they explain. “These liquid-water regions then merge to form a shell of liquid around an ice core, and finally develop into a water drop.”

The study of melting snowflakes could help scientists predict severe heavy snow

The amazing 3D rendering of a snowflake depicts a snowflake less than half an inch (one centimeter) long, and which is composed of many individual ice crystals whose arms became entangled when they collided in midair.

Because the 3D model of the snowflake is highly detailed, it is more useful for scientists trying to understand the complex relationship between falling snow and hail.

Observations carried out with remote sensing instruments produce a radar “profile” of the atmosphere showing a very bright layer at the altitude where falling snow and hail melt, brighter than atmospheric layers above and below it.

“The reasons for this layer are still not particularly clear,” Leinonen explains, “and there has been a bit of debate in the community.”

The NASA research into snowflakes has been published in a paper, “Snowflake melting simulation using smoothed particle hydrodynamics,” in the journal Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres.

See the amazing 3D model of a melting snowflake in the video below.

 

 

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