North Texas Daily

Campus radar improves weather forecasting

Campus radar improves weather forecasting

April 24
21:47 2013

Stephen Young / Contributing Writer

An advanced weather radar installed on April 11 at Discovery Park will provide meteorologists and emergency planners with improved storm information in time for tornado season.

The Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere radar’s rapid, low-level scanning produces warnings that are more timely and specific than those that come from older systems.

Most weather forecasting and warning systems use data from high-powered, long-range radars.

While standard weather radars identify patterns and large-scale system development, they are not effective on a micro-level, said meteorologist Greg Patrick. They are unable to observe the lower part of the atmosphere, where most localized storm activity develops. Without this information, warnings are often too broad or issued at the wrong time.

The CASA program aims to fix this problem with a series of high-resolution, quick-updating, short-range radars around the Metroplex.

A typical radar has a range of about 150 miles, but the CASA radars only cover about 25 miles. Over a large area, obstructions and the Earth’s curvature make it difficult for radar to observe the lower part of the atmosphere. The smaller the area, the more likely the radar can provide correct information.

That’s why the CASA program is installing multiple radars in a relatively small area, Patrick said. The radars are focused on their immediate surrounding areas exclusively.

“The data from [the CASA radars] is four to eight times higher resolution than National Weather Service radar,” Patrick said.

The radar also updates its low level scans every minute, which is four times as often as other radars.

“It allows us to be more confident in what we are seeing and help decision makers pinpoint problems as they are happening,” he said.

After storms, the area can be immediately identified and planners can make sure emergency resources get to the right spot, Patrick said.

“We can get down to a street-by-street, block-by-block level,” he said.

Radar data is combined with information from Google Maps to provide the most exact picture possible, he said.

Blake Abbe, UNT’s Emergency Planning Specialist, said that the warnings CASA systems provide are especially valuable on a university campus.

“Decisions [based on CASA data] are more accurate and timely,” Abbe said. “We can see down to certain streets and buildings to see which areas are the most vulnerable.”

When severe weather does strike, the radar’s quick updates will help keep the UNT community safe, Abbe said.

“We will be able to see where a storm cell is going to go 120, then 60, then 30 minutes out,” he said. “We can notify staff and make sure the public has all of the information it needs.”

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