The Future of Weather Radar

Needless to say, over the past 10 to 20 years, technology has continued to evolve and amaze many.  From cell phones, to computers, to automobiles and even television, it all seems to be an ongoing wave of adjusting how we live our lives.  You've probably heard plenty about how digital television broadcasts will become standard on February 17, 2009, and of course a digital signal means a sharper picture quality and improved audio.  I still have yet to experience HDTV in all its glory, but I am sure once the cost drops to the point where I can afford one of these TVs, l’ll never want to go back to standard definition.  When it comes to the world of weather, we've also been riding along with the technology revolution.  Whether it is having our state of the art Titan Radar system, our snazzy weather graphics, the 24/7 digital weather channel, or 7 To Go with weather info right on your cell phone, we are continuing to find new ways to deliver the forecast and weather warnings to you when you need it.

As you know, Titan Radar incorporates National Weather Service (NWS) radar data from not only around the western Great Lakes but also the entire U.S.  The last big revolution with NWS radars happened in the early 1990s when the WSR-88D radar become widespread across the country, allowing for better resolution of storms and for faster, more accurate issuance of warnings for severe weather.  Well, there are more enhancements on the way now and in the future for the NWS radars.  Just recently, the weather service began doing software upgrades on the NWS radars in our area to provide super resolution, meaning even better detail in the images we show you on Titan Radar, and in the process, this allows for better analysis of storms and the amount of precipitation they produce.  Think of it as upgrading a digital camera from 5 to 10 mega pixels.  You'll be seeing this at home in the weeks to come as the all the local NWS radars have their upgrades completed.

But wait...there's more!  In the next 5 to 10 years, dual-polarization radars will be replacing the WSR-88D, which means that we'll be able to measure not only the horizontal but also vertical aspects of storms.  So with this we'll be have the ability to tell you with even greater detail where hail is falling from storms, how strong the wind gusts may be, and on the winter side of things, pinpoint whether rain, sleet, or snow is falling with any given weather event.  One other aspect that would make storm detecting even better is a wider coverage of radars themselves.  That is were the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) project enters the picture.  This system would establish localized weather radars that would enhance coverage in the lowest 10,000 feet of the atmosphere and the cost could be a fraction of one NWS radar.  More radars means more data and even greater detail into what may be going on where you live.  The concept is to have as many radars spread around as we now have with cell phone towers.  Of course, this will take time to come to fruition due to affordability to install in towns and to fine tune the technology to be established into a network working hand in hand with the more powerful NWS radars.  Sounds familiar to my waiting game for that shiny HDTV.  Nevertheless, in a nut shell, the future is bright for the weather tools that we will have available to give you the latest, most accurate forecast around and to keep you ahead of the storms.

Here are some links: 
NWS WSR-88D Radar Info  
ABC News article on CASA Project
University of Massachusetts CASA Website

Dual Polar Radar FAQs

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