Last week meteorologists from the National Weather Service stopped by the news station to give us (Kerrin, Chelsea, and I) an explanation of new radars coming to the local area.
The National Weather Service is in the midst of upgrading its network of radars across the country. In fact, one of the radars that we use here at Fox44/Abc22 is going off-line today (Monday, July 9th) for the upgrade.
The name of the new radar is called "Dual-Pol" which is short for Dual Polarization. The conventional radars that we have used since the late 1980s have sent a beam out into the sky. If that radar beam would hit anything (i.e. rain drops, snow flakes, hail, ice crystals, even birds/insects) it would return to the radar and show up as those colors you may be used to seeing.
Now what the upgrade is doing is having the radar send out beams in multi-directions to give more detail about what is going on inside clouds/storms/etc. So picture this: The previous beam went up down up down up down up down, similar to a sine or cosine wave if you recall in algebra. Now the radar will send one that way, then a wave perpendicular to it. So now the radar can see the height AND width of an object (hail stone) instead of just one dimension.
You most likely won't see any changes when watching the local weather. This upgrade is mostly useful for behind-the-scene situations. For instance this upgrade will allow meteorologists to better differentiate between hail and heavy rain, or light to moderate rain. It will help with severe weather forecasting, in issuing warnings for hail or even flash flooding. That's because rainfall rates within storms will be much more accurate compared to the single beam the 88-D shoots out now (current name of the radar).
Again you probably won't notice anything different. We aren't changing our weather graphics for the new type of radar, but it doesn't mean we can't see it. If there is severe weather and something useful pops up via the dual pol radar, we could use that on air and describe what it means. But it can get very confusing with all of the new parameters, so instead of confusing the viewer, we'll probably act as the translator behind the scenes and interpret what is going on within storms.
One of the radars we use is from Watertown, NY and it's called the Fort Drum radar. That will be down from July 9th to the 22nd. However as these dual pol radars have been getting installed, they've been getting done in about a week so it will probably be up and running by the 17th or 18th of July. After that the radar will be disabled in Burlington (technically Colchester, VT) from July 23rd to (tenatively) August 5, 2012. As the radar goes down, the National Weather Service will use data from surrounding radars (Albany, Ft. Drum, Gray Maine) to watch for storms and weather systems moving through our area.
If you'd like to go deeper with the dual pol radar and learn more, there is an on-line segment here: http://www.wdtb.noaa.gov/courses/dualpol/Outreach/non-nws-intro/player.html
Also you can do an on-line search of dual pol radar and find a lot of information. I would go to NOAA or NWS websites because those will be the most accurate.
-Meteorologist Steve Glazier