Weather Service touts new radar equipmentDual polarization radar installed in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, will be added in Rapid City
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
Two of the three National Weather Service stations in South Dakota have upgraded their radar capabilities and the third is scheduled to do so this fall.
Offices in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen have been equipped with the new dual polarization radar that will give meteorologists more tools to track weather and alert the public. The Rapid City office will receive the equipment in September or October.
According to the National Weather Service, the upgrade to dual polarization is a significant enhancement to the nation’s NEXRAD radar network.
Phil Schumacher, a Sioux Fallsbased meteorologist for the NWS, said the equipment will allow people to be better informed.
“The biggest impact will be on rainfall,” Schumacher said. “We’re going to have a better indication, get more accurate on the amount of rainfall from our radar.”
He said that will be particularly important for flash flooding or river flooding, so people can be told much more precisely how much rain has fallen in their area as it happens.
Schumacher said the new radar equipment was installed in Sioux Falls in late July, and in Aberdeen in early August. It cost $225,000 per office, he said, meaning the three South Dakota weather stations will see an investment of $675,000.
The new radar will be installed in 160 sites, including 122 at local weather forecast offices and 38 at NOAA centers and military and aviation sites, according to NOAA. In July, Congress allocated $9.4 million to finish the installation of dual - pol by mid-2013 at a total cost of $50 million.
While that seems like a large investment, researchers estimate the new technology could save the nation about $700 million annually by reducing weather - related damages. It also could prevent injuries and deaths by providing more detailed information to the public.
The upgrade includes new software and a hardware attachment to the radar dish which allow it to send and receive both horizontal and vertical pulses, and provide a much more informative two-dimensional picture about the size and shape of the objects detected.
This information helps forecasters clearly identify rain, hail, snow or ice pellets, and other flying objects, improving forecasts for all types of weather.
In addition, it can detect and identify flying tornado debris, giving forecasters a high degree of confidence that a damaging tornado is on the ground and the ability to track its path. This is especially helpful at night when tornadoes are difficult to see.