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Meteorological Measurements of Atmospheric Conditions at Meteor Crater

In 2006, an extensive set of meteorological measurements were made in an NSF-funded campaign called the Meteor Crater Experiment (METCRAX).  The project was led by Drs. Andreas Muschinski, David Fritts, David Whiteman, and Sharon Zhong.  Meteor Crater, which is a near-perfect topographical basin, was used as a proxy for a study of the structure and evolution of temperature inversions or cold-air pools that form on a daily basis in larger topographic basins and valleys (e.g., Phoenix).  The physical processes leading to the buildup and breakdown of temperature inversions and the formation of atmospheric seiches (atmospheric oscillations in the basin caused by wind disturbances at the basin crest) were studied in the crater without the complications introduced by more complex topography.   Figure 1(a-c) provides a map of the deployed instruments.

In 2013, NSF supported a second meteorological campaign called METCRAX II.  The project was led by Profs. Dave Whiteman, Ron Calhoun, Sebastian Hoch, and Dr. Rich Rotunno.  The project builds on a serendipitous discovery of warm air intrusions into the crater that was made during METCRAX.  METCRAX II is designed to study “katabatically driven hydraulic flow” in a natural setting, to better understand the destructive processes associated with Bora, Foehn, and Chinook windstorm events in mountainous terrains.  Figure 1(d-f) provides a map of the deployed instruments.

Preliminary Report of Project Results
C. D. Whiteman et al. (2008) METCRAX 2006: Meteorological Experiments in Arizona’s Meteor Crater.  Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 89, 1665-1680.

Example of data application to planetary science problems
C. D. Whiteman, D. A. Kring, and S. W. Hoch (2008) Diurnal evolution of atmospheric structure within Meteor Crater, Arizona:  Implications for microniches on Mars.  Lunar and Planetary Science XXXIX, Abstract #1405.

For additional information about the projects, a complete bibliography of research results, and access to additional data, please go to:

Figure 1.  (a-c) The left panel shows the locations of the instruments deployed during METCRAX in 2006.  (d-f) The right panel shows the locations of the instruments deployed during METCRAX II in 2013.  Please refer to the METCRAX and METCRAX II sites at the University of Utah for more details.

Examples of Data Products

Nighttime Infrared Video of Surface Temperatures Inside Meteor Crater

Nighttime infrared time-lapse video of the Barringer Meteorite Crater (aka Meteor Crater) measured with a VarioCam high resolution (Infratec) camera, as obtained in the second Meteor Crater Experiment (METCRAX II). The video frequency is 50 Hz and time steps are at 2-s intervals. Shown are surface temperatures (°C) calculated from surface IR radiation received at the camera. The accompanying still photo shows the camera pointed southward from the Meteor Crater visitors center.

Changes in air temperature influence the surface, causing changes in surface temperatures and indirectly indicating air flow. The 1/2 hour video shows a turbulent situation. By looking carefully, you will see field personnel and ascending/descending tethered balloons collecting wind, temperature and humidity profile data.

Video prepared by:
Dr. Martina Grudzielanek (University of Bochum, Germany),
Prof. Roland Vogt (University of Basel, Switzerland)

More information on the METCRAX II experiments in the Barringer Meteorite Crater are available from http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~whiteman/metcrax2/.

Visualization of the Wind Field in Meteor Crater

Visualization of the evolution of the 2-D wind field on a vertical cross section running NNE-SSW through the Barringer Meteorite Crater (aka Meteor Crater) on 19-20 October 2013. The wind field was determined by combining radial velocities measured by two scanning Doppler wind lidars using a dual-Doppler technique. Measurements were conducted as part of the second Meteor Crater Experiment (METCRAX II). The circulations seen in this animation come from a hydraulic flow that develops over the SW rim of the crater when a mesoscale southwesterly drainage flow that forms on quiescent nights on the inclided plain surrounding the crater interacts with the crater topography. Look for several features of this flow including the development of a hydraulic jump that forms above the southwest sidewall inside the crater, flow separations, rotors and the formation of a standing wave.

Video prepared by:
Prof. Sebastian Hoch (University of Utah)

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