Radar Upgrade In Charleston To Improve Weather Forecasts
Written by Pierce Legeion
Last updated on October 11, 2012 @ 8:28PM
Created on October 11, 2012 @ 6:50PM
 
Meteorologists in the Mountain State have some new tools to help them create better forecasts.  The National Weather Service radar in Charleston just received an upgrade for the first time in two decades.  This new and improved radar is giving meteorologists a better look at the weather.

Meteorologists have had access to the new "dual-polarization", or "dual-pol", upgrade and the 14 new radar products that come with it for about a week now.  Jonathan Wolfe explains the differences between traditional radar and the new dual-pol radar.

"Basically the radar normally sends out a polarized signal that translates into the horizontal dimension."  says Jonathan Wolfe, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston. "The dual-pol upgrade adds a vertical dimension to the radar."

Radar has always picked up on both weather and non-weather targets.  The horizontal and vertical pulses that the radar now sends and receives give forecasters better estimates of the size and shape of what the radar is measuring.  This helps in better detecting what is actually falling from the sky.

"Instead of just cutting a rain drop in half this way, now we can cut it in half this way so if it's just snowflakes, basically we'll know." said Jonathan Wolfe at the NWS.

In the winter, this will include better detection of the rain-snow line which meteorologists often had to rely heavily on ground reports for in the past.  Dual-pol will also be able to better estimate rainfall rates, which will be critical for giving advanced warning of flooding, something that many of us can appreciate.

"Especially after this past summer, it would have been nice to have a heads up and been prepared so we wouldn't have had all the water and power outages and such" said Debby Shillingburg of Jane Lew.

And that's just the start.  Tornadoes will also be much more visible by radar with this upgrade.  All of these improvements tie in to a bigger project that the NWS is working on.  The goal of the weather ready nation project is to improve severe weather warning times and improve the readiness of the public for severe weather.  Researchers estimate that this latest upgrade could save the country $700 million in weather-related damages every year.

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