The type and amount of winter precipitation is very sensitive to subtle changes in the atmosphere making forecasting winter precipitation difficult. During the months of December and January, NSSL/CIMMS researchers will use three radars to explore microphysical processes leading to formation of different types of winter precipitation ranging from freezing rain to heavy snow.
The radars are all equipped with dual-polarization technology, which allows discrimination between rain and different types of mixed-phase or frozen particles. Current WSR-88D radar technology does not have such a capability. It is anticipated that multiple observations of winter storms (at different radar wavelengths and horizontal and vertical directions) will help to develop an efficient operational algorithm to distinguish between rain, hail, freezing rain, dry / wet snow, graupel, ice pellets, and ice crystals.
The NOAA X-Band Polarized (NOXP) mobile radar has the shortest wavelength and will be placed at the Max Westheimer airport in north Norman, Okla. The research polarized KOUN S-Band radar is located nearby with the longest wavelength. The University of Oklahoma PRIME C-Band research radar, with the middle wavelength, is in south Norman.
The radars will operate whenever there is a winter precipitation event in central Oklahoma.