Chasing the secrets of thunderstorms with drones

Susan van den Heever portrait
Susan van den Heever

Thunderstorms impact life on Earth both through the life-giving fresh water they provide and the life-threatening severe weather that they produce, yet accurately predicting them using numerical models remains a highly challenging task.

Susan C. van den Heever, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, will discuss how her current research has used custom drones to understand thunderstorms Wednesday, April 12, in the Lory Student Center.

Her lecture, “Chasing the Secrets of Thunderstorms,” begins at 4 p.m. in the Longs Peak Room.  It is free and open to the public.

Van den Heever was named a CSU Monfort Professor in 2015. The Monfort Family Foundation established the Monfort Professors Program to support early career faculty with unrestricted support for advancing their research, teaching, and career. Monfort Professors retain this designation for two years, and receive $75,000 per year.

Van den Heever has used her Monfort funding to design and execute the Colorado State University Convective Cloud Outflows and UpDrafts Experiment (C³LOUD-Ex). It measures deep thunderstorm updrafts and cold pools to enhance understanding of the structure of storms and help improve existing forecasting models.

The C³LOUD-Ex team designed and built a fleet of instrument-carrying drones, which they use together with surface meteorological stations, weather balloons, and observations from the CSU CHILL radar to analyze thunderstorm characteristics.

During her talk, van den Heever will discuss observations made during the first phase of the field campaign last summer as well as this highly novel use of drones in investigating thunderstorm features. The team will be returning to the field to collect more data in May.

Read more about van den Heever’s thunderstorm research.