NOAA 2003-R208
Contact: Susan Weaver
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Radar technology currently used to protect Navy battle groups from missile threats will soon be adapted for a new purpose - weather detection. State-of-the-art phased array radar may help forecasters of the future provide earlier warnings for tornadoes and other types of severe and hazardous weather.

This spring, a National Weather Radar Testbed will be established at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) in Norman, Okla., providing the meteorological research community with the first phased array radar facility available on a full-time basis. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

The project—from research and development to technology transfer and deployment throughout the U.S.—is expected to take 10 to 15 years with an initial cost of approximately $25 million.

The phased array radar project will begin a new era in NSSL’s leadership in the research and development of future generations of weather radar. However, the NSSL is not working alone. All aspects of this initiative are being carried out in a unique federal, private, state and academic partnership, including the NOAA National Weather Service, Lockheed Martin, U.S. Navy, Federal Aviation Administration, Basic Commerce and Industries, Inc., the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, and the University of Oklahoma’s Schools of Meteorology and College of Engineering.

“Early tests of this phased array radar system have proved promising,” said Doug Forsyth, chief of the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory’s Radar Research and Development Division. “The National Weather Radar Testbed will allow NSSL and other meteorologists to determine if phased array radar will become the next significant technology advancement to improve our nation’s weather services.”

Norman is already known as the center for weather radar research and development for the nation. Nearly 30 years ago, NSSL was a major participant in the development of Doppler technology that became the heart of the WSR-88D radar, commonly known as NEXRAD. The deployment of a system of 120 NEXRAD radars across the United States became a cornerstone of the modernization of the NOAA National Weather Service.

Using electronically controlled beams, phased array radar reduces the scan time of severe weather from five or six minutes for current WSR-88D technology to less than one minute, producing quicker updates of data and thereby potentially increasing the average lead time for tornado warnings. It will also be able to re-scan areas of severe weather very quickly, potentially increasing forecasters’ warning lead times as storms rapidly transition to severe modes.

The new technology will gather storm information not currently available, such as rapid changes in wind fields, to provide more thorough understanding of storm evolution. Researchers and forecasters can then improve conceptual storm models and use that knowledge to evaluate and improve stormscale computer models.

The radar’s infrastructure is under construction, Forsyth said, and is scheduled to be completed this summer. Testing is expected to begin in June.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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