According to NOAA , the 2021 North American monsoon through July has been among the wettest on record for parts of Arizona. Some parts of Arizona have received more than 200% of the average rainfall, with Tucson recording its wettest month ever this July. While the increased precipitation is a welcome relief for drought-stricken areas, it also brings the risk of damaging, destructive storms. Researchers at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are looking for ways to improve their forecasting and better predict the flash flood and severe thunderstorm events that impact Arizona.

Fixed-wing UAS with TriSonica Mini conducting lower atmospheric measurements.

Dr. Kevin Adkins, Associate Professor in the College of Aviation, at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach Campus, is one of the lead investigators conducting field campaigns in Arizona and New Mexico this year. “It has been a banner year for the North American monsoon,” says Dr. Adkins. “We were worrying upfront when we started planning for this last fall that there wouldn’t be a monsoon because the past three years have been really trivial types of events. We were lucky this year because where we’re at in Arizona, it was very active. Yet there are places this year which are very wet and yet within the same region, very dry. So what type of fine scale features result in that type of enhanced precipitation or the opposite? The overarching goal of our research is to better understand what triggers that very localized precipitation.”

To that end, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University enlisted personnel from their Prescott Arizona, and Daytona Beach Florida campuses to conduct this research project. Their approach involved a variety of manned and unmanned research vehicles, the use of which provided near continuous measurements of the lower atmosphere over the complex terrain found in northern Arizona.
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