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Faces of GPM: Professor Steve Nesbitt, GPM Ground Validation Scientist

Profile of Steve Nesbitt, a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois and a mission scientist on GPM ground validation field campaigns. Nesbitt uses the data collected to improve the representation of cloud microphysical processes using radars, aircraft probes, and surface instrumentation in satellite precipitation algorithms to improve global precipitation estimates.

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As you can see, it is snowing pretty good here this morning at the CARE site. Pretty nice, large aggregates, this is exactly what we're looking for, and it keeps coming down.
 
Scientists get really excited over data, and that can really be enjoyable because you end up having a "nerd moment," where "Holy cow, this data looks really amazing!" And then you're kind of like, Wow, should I really get that excited about it? And then you're like, Yes, I should be because I've traveled all this way to do it. But, you know, those kind of moments are kind of the most special things that I have as a scientist, where you make these initial discoveries. Then you get to do the hard work of trying to make sure that they're making sense, and then publishing your results and sharing them with the community.
 
I grew up in upstate New York, in one of the Snowbelt regions, and I've always loved precipitation and it's fascinated me, and that's really focused my career on studying something that's always interested me for a long period of time. Even going back to elementary school, I was a kid that used to keep a rain gauge in the back yard and measured precipitation and kept track of it. And I was always interested in weather, and now I get to live my dream.
 
And so GPM, when it launches in a few years, is going to provide really high quality estimates of precipitation in places where nobody lives, but it's really important for climate as well as understanding weather forecasting and things like that. I look to investigate how precipitation changes in different weather regimes, and so what we want to try to understand as we go to these higher latitudes--how do the weather systems interact with precipitation and how well can we measure those things? And part of that obviously is to go up there and validate these things as well. So another part of my research is taking measurements from the ground in various places in the world and try to validate the satellite estimates that we're putting out, and making sure that they're high quality. I get really excited when we start to put data together and we make a diagram, and wow, it starts to make sense. And so that's really what motivates me to kind of explore, and it's nice that NASA provides this sort of observations where we can really explore our own planet in a very amazing way.