WT grad student’s research helps to understand precipitation in Texas Panhandle

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Hemanth Sandeep Vepuri, a West Texas A&M University grad student’s research is helping understand how precipitation in the Texas Panhandle works.

Dr. Naruki Hiranuma, assistant professor of environmental science at WTAMU and Vepuri’s research adviser said this could revolutionize the understanding of how hail and rain are formed over the Texas Panhandle.

A system to collect precipitation samples was set up on the roof of the Natural Sciences building on WT’s Canyon campus.

In about 40 samples collected between June 2018 and July 2019, they found that there are some variations in INP concentrations among the different precipitation systems and that there is a higher overall INP concentration in general.

INPs are the microscopic material in the air that water vapor condenses around to form ice crystals that make up clouds.

Chief Meteorologist John Harris added that INPs are different aerosols that get expelled into the air

“You may ask, how they get airborne and it’s simple. It’s the wind. You think about fires. If we have wildfires or we have forest fires, all of that smoke is hurled into the air hundreds and hundreds of feet, thousands and thousands of feet. While that becomes the aerosols for possibly rain or snow downwind of where it actually became airborne,” said Harris.

Dr. Hiranuma said the goal of this research was to examine how the concentration of ice-nucleating particles varies between the types of precipitation systems.

“In the future, we need to study or we need to understand what we observed at the ground level is really what is happening inside the cloud,” said Dr. Hiranuma.

Dr. Hiranuma said in their research they have small indications that we could see an increase of hail and tornadoes in the area but said they have to do more research.

Dr. Hiranuma said they are now looking at feedlots around the area to see how they are contributing to INPs.

“We actually found some biological particles from open lot, livestock feeding facilities in our precipitation. It could be positive or negative, I’m not going to say it, but the fact is the precipitation system and ice-nucleating particles here in West Texas are very unique,” said Dr. Hiranuma.

Dr. Hiranuma added that we only get about 10 inches of precipitation a year in the Panhandle and that can fluctuate.

Dr. Hiranuma said the project was supported by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

A Killgore Graduate Student Research Grant from WT was also applied for this research.


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