Meteorologists Research a New Radar System

Article excerpt

NORMAN -- Meteorologists at the University of Oklahoma are researching a new radar system that could warn people of severe weather long before the first storm cloud forms.

The researchers at the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms aren't satisfied with storm warnings that have been issued as much as 45 minutes before severe weather strikes. They are creating a new radar system that will predict severe weather more quickly and accurately.

To accomplish this, researchers are infusing Phased Array Radar, a technology long used by the military and the airline industry, and the NEXRAD radar system, said Kelvin Droegemeier, professor of meteorology at OU and director of CAPS.

"It will be able to log so many different parameters of a storm at once," Droegemeier said. "If we're going to predict its evolution, we have to know what's going on now."

When massive tornadoes swept across central Oklahoma in May 1999, forecasters were able to issue warnings as much as 45 minutes before the public was battered by the storm. That storm caused millions of dollars worth of damage and killed 44 people in Oklahoma.

That amount of advance warning is uncommon, Droegemeier said. Usually, forecasters can only warn people 18 to 28 minutes before the storm hits.

NEXRAD scans a storm to produce a 3-D picture, which measures the storm's volume. One complete scan of a weather pattern takes about six minutes, he said.

The new radar system would hook the "guts" of the NEXRAD radar to a PAR antenna. PAR would be able to do in a manner of seconds what the NEXRAD radar does, Droegemeier said.

"It may sound like six minutes isn't that long," he said. …