A large white dome sitting high above the ground in a field outside Radisson may appear unassuming to the average passerby, but it provides crucial information in our daily lives.
And the new Dual-polarization Doppler radar system loaded with new weather forecasting technology that recently came online there promises to offer meteorologists like John Paul Cragg faster and more accurate data on what is entering the skies above our region.
“We are bringing in new radar that benefits from new technologies and because of that we will have better information for our watches and warnings in the future,” he told paNOW.
It is the first in a series of new generation radars set to be rolled out across the country.
There are three main elements in which the new radar will assist weather forecasters, according to Cragg. To start, the radar range on the new system has doubled from 120 kilometres to 240. A common use of Doppler radar is to measure rotation in thunderstorms, which is used to indicate the possibility of a tornado.
Cragg said the new radar will also scan the atmosphere every six minutes as opposed to 10. While it may not sound like a large difference, he said thunderstorms develop at a rapid pace and “10 minutes between a scan is a long time and a lot can happen in a thunderstorm in that time period.”
“A scan of six minutes instead of 10 minutes really enhances our view of the development of these types of severe weather events,” he said, adding it will allow forecasters to offer the public a more clear picture of what’s happening and what’s likely to occur.
The new radar is also dual polar, meaning it sends out highly sensitive beams both vertically and horizontally. When precipitation scatters these beams and that information gets reflected back to the dish, it can tell forecasters a lot about the precipitation. It helps them distinguish raindrops from snowflakes and hail pellets and can aid in detecting freezing rain events.
“Freezing rain can be hard to forecast as it takes a very specific atmospheric event to form,” Cragg said. “If we don’t have surface observations we are waiting for reports from residents and we don’t really know if it is happening or not.”
The new technology should help make Canadians safer, Cragg said, by speeding up the deployment of watches and warnings for severe weather events.
The Radisson station project is a complete replacement of the original, which carried the serial number ‘001’ for the then state-of-the art technology for Canada back in 1981.
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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