Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Radar Coming

Last week, the Wichita National Weather Service radar went down for a big upgrade that will take up to two weeks to complete. When the radar comes back online, it will be a Dual Polarization Radar, which will increase the number of radar products we'll be able to view in the weather center.

For the general public, you won't see many changes on our air, and it will be several months before we begin using some of the new imagery on air. But you may already be asking what is dual polarization radar?

Without going into great detail, the radar beam will be able to sample targets both horizontally and vertically (in the picture, the red line is the horizontal detection). By doing this, we'll be able to better understand what the radar is hitting (i.e. large hail, large rain drops, small drops, ice, smoke, birds, etc). We'll also have a clearer picture of estimated rainfall during flooding events, and should a tornado touch down and start doing damage, the debris ball (junk from a tornado thrown up into the air) will be clearly visible with the new dual polarization radar. If you drive by the airport, you won't see any changes to the white, golf ball looking tower. The changes are inside the white dome.

Wichita is only the 3rd location in the country to get an upgrade to dual polarization, but the network of 122 radars will be getting the upgrade by the end of 2013. It's an expensive change, but one that will hopefully improve our detection and tracking of severe storms.

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