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Twin Falls native works with NASA to study gravity waves

Posted at 7:17 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-04 21:17:15-05

MAGIC VALLEY — After his original internship with NASA fell through because of the pandemic, Twin Falls native Carlos Munoz decided to take a different opportunity studying gravity waves with NASA, even though he had no background in atmospheric science.

"Approaching this project, I knew practically nothing regarding atmospheric science. I could look at the clouds and say those are pretty clouds, but now I learned about a completely new field of science. How to understand energy mechanisms in the atmosphere in a whole different way," Munoz said.

The research involved teams at the University of Idaho and other parts of the nation and South America. The groups launched high altitude balloons along the path of totality during a total solar eclipse; this helped them track the gravity waves to better predict and anticipate major weather events.

"If you ever look at the clouds and see Rolley and wavy clouds, that's evidence of gravity waves. They are what happens when hot air rises and falls in the atmosphere as it cools down, and it starts as a big wave in the atmosphere, like ripples in a pond," Munoz said.

Munoz and his team were in charge of analyzing those gravity wave measurements.

"And then we take that and say how does that affect the weather? How do we use that to improve the current climate models that meteorologists use to predict if it's going to rain tomorrow or any severe weather," Munoz said.

Understanding this data is not only essential to research teams, but to everyday people, Munoz says.

"You can better understand the weather. I mean, that's a big thing. You can help with timing crops. You can look at anything that weather directly affects and understand things like hurricanes better or severe weather better," Munoz said.

Munoz became involved in the project in June of last year and plans to be involved in the project until he graduates in May.

"For me, this has opened so many different doors. Like I said I've always had a passion for research, so working for an organization that's devoted to research is super big for me. It's given me tons of different opportunities," Munoz said.