TCNJ Magazine - Winter 2020

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 9 of 51

8 The College of New Jersey Magazine But her answer was unpersuasive, so she called physics professor and atmospheric scientist Nate Magee, who asked Madden to bring home samples so he and student Aaron Lynn '20 could examine them. " It's a great big TCNJ family project." —Lauren Madden DIRTY RAIN IS HARDLY NEW to the Mediterranean, nor is surmising about where it comes from. Residents of southern Italy feared that Mount Etna or Mount Vesuvius had erupted when "pioggia rossa," or red rain, fell on March 7, 1803. But scientist Giuseppe Maria Giovene quickly determined that it was dust carried on winds from Africa. More recently, NASA, via its CALIPSO satellite, has captured startling 3D images of massive dust plumes on the move from the Education professor Lauren Madden, there for the third consecutive year teaching in the college's off-site graduate education program, hadn't seen any rainfall on her prior visits, let alone one so messy. So she certainly could not have anticipated what the follow- ing night's chitchat would lead to: a half-dozen TCNJ educators, students, and alumni playing roles in solving a minor climatological brainteaser. "It's a great big TCNJ family project," she says with a laugh. The meta-story goes something like this: Over dinner, Madden and global programs coordinator Stuart Carroll were discussing the unusual rain with Adele Guy, a British colleague who lives in Mallorca year-round and had seen "dirty rain" before. Locals point to Africa as the source, says Carroll. But what actually caused it? Because Madden specializes in science, her companions asked for an explanation. "I said, 'If it's that infrequent, it's probably just dirt from the trees and hills that makes its way into the drops of rain and ends up drying on the cars,'" Madden recalls. P R A I R I E HE RAIN IN SPAIN FALLS MAINLY during the cooler months and, on the island of Mallorca, hardly at all in July. But when overnight precipitation spritzed the Mediterranean paradise July 8, it left behind something more for small talk: a layer of grit coating every outdoor surface. T Sahara. Depending on how much rain falls in the desert, NASA estimates that 182 million tons of Saharan dust is believed to travel beyond Africa's northwestern coast each year. About 27 million tons are deposited more than 3,000 miles to the west in South America's Amazon basin, supplying the world's largest rainforest with the nutrient phosphorous. Magee, whose main area of research is cloud physics, was aware that aerosol particulates from the Sahara may play a role in the formation of hurricanes near the Azores, just west of North Africa. That's right: Shards of sand one-tenth the width of a human hair may trigger devastating storms in the United States and Caribbean. Madden's question offered Magee and Lynn an opportunity to zero in on one day's activity in a region critical to global weather. Lynn went all-in, analyzing images from CALIPSO and other satellites and unpacking massive weather data sets to "back-forecast" winds to their source. The pair had an additional tool in their belt: The physics department's $700,000 scanning

Articles in this issue

view archives of TCNJ - TCNJ Magazine - Winter 2020