New NASA 'Snow Chaser' Plane Prepares for Takeoff to Improve Weather Forecasts

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – It is pretty to look at, but at times, treacherous to encounter: when snowstorms wreak havoc on the ground, it can come with a cost. Yet, because of limited research, snowstorms are not as well-understood as other weather phenomenon. That’s about to change. Inside a noisy hangar at NASA’s Wallops Island facility in Virginia sits a specially outfitted P-3 aircraft, also known as a “snow chaser.” “Snow can have a huge economic impact,” said Lynn McMurdie, principal investigator for a new research project called IMPACTS. “To be able to fly inside the clouds, where the snowflakes form, enables us to study the processes that go into forming the snowflakes that eventually fall down to the earth as snowfall in your backyard.”