Mobile radar heads to California for debris flow experiment

SR-2 El ToroDecember 1, NSSL’s mobile radar team will begin to collect data with the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar (SMART-R) in southern California to help monitor rainstorms that may trigger dangerous debris flows.

Debris flows are rivers of rock and earth triggered by rainfall, that can destroy culverts, bridges, roadways, and structures and can cause injury or death.

Areas damaged by wildfires are particularly susceptible to flash floods and debris flows during rainstorms.  Rainfall that is normally absorbed by vegetation can run off almost instantly, causing creeks and drainage areas to flood much sooner during a storm, and with more water, than normal.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA National Weather Service (NWS), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have established a demonstration flash flood and debris-flow early warning system for recently burned areas in southern California.  The experiment focuses on helping forecasters improve flash flood and debris flow warnings by providing more detailed measurements of rainfall.

NSSL will supply real-time close-up radar data during rain events with the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar (SMART-R) to supplement local NWS radar in areas where the radar beam is blocked by the terrain. The SMART-R will be based at Burbank-Bob Hope Airport starting 1 December 2009-28 February 2010.

The USGS has identified the Station Fire burn area as the location for the 2009-2010 experiment.  The Station Fire burned over 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, making it the largest fire in L.A. County history. “Some of the areas burned by the Station Fire show the highest likelihood for big debris flows that I’ve ever seen,” said Susan Cannon, USGS Research Geologist.

Landslides in the U.S. result in an estimated 25-50 deaths and damages between $1B and $3B annually.   This is the fifth year the SMART-R has been operated in the Debris Flow Warning System experiment.  Evaluations of the experiment indicate that small, portable radars can augment observations from the fixed—site operational radar network with highly accurate, finer-scale estimates of precipitation.

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BAMS publishes two NSSL articles

The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society published two articles by NSSL in the October, 2009 issue.

“Convective-scale Warn-On-Forecast System:  A Vision for 2020” calls on the research community to develop warning methods in which numerical model forecasts play a much larger role.  Current convective-scale hazard warnings are based on observation.  A Warn-on-Forecast system would provide longer lead times through an additional layer of warning information containing probabilistic hazard information.  Increasing severe thunderstorm, flash flood, and tornado warning lead times is a key NOAA strategic mission goal designed to reduce the loss of life, injury, and economic costs of high-impact weather by providing more trusted weather and water information in support of organized public mitigation activities.  The authors of the article are NSSL’s Dave Stensrud, Lou Wicker, Kevin Kelleher, along with Ming Xue (Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms), Mike Foster (NOAA NWSFO Norman, Okla.), Joe Schaefer and Russ Schneider (NOAA Storm Prediction Center), Stan Benjamin and Steve Weygandt (NOAA ESRL), John Ferree (NOAA NWS Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services), and Jason Tuell (NOAA NWS Office of Science and Technology Policy).

A largely student run project is described in the article “Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment “ (SHAVE).  A project scientist and operations coordinator guide daily activities, with students making phone calls to the public affected by severe thunderstorms.  Their job is to collect information on hail sizes, wind damage and flash flooding.   The public reports are then blended with high-resolution radar data and geographic information from Google Earth to create a diverse dataset on all types of storms.  This information will be used to improve decision-making tools used by the NWS in the forecast and warning process, and pave the way for improvements to the historical severe storms database.  SHAVE is expected to continue beyond 2009, with a possible expansion into winter weather verification.  The authors are NSSL/Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorology Studies Kiel Ortega, Travis Smith, Kevin Manross, and Angelyn Kolodziej, Kevin Scharfenberg (NWS Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services), and Arthur Witt and J.J. Gourley (NOAA NSSL).


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National Weather Festival attracts 4,500 people

A TIger Cub Scout is about to be shocked!
A Tiger Cub Scout is about to be shocked!

The 5th Annual National Weather Festival drew 4,500 people last Saturday, November 7 to the National Weather Center in Norman, Okla.

The free public event featured tours, children’s activities, a storm chaser car show, amateur radio demonstrations, and hourly weather balloon launches with local broadcast meteorologists.  Booths offered weather related information and products.  NSSL staff volunteers led tours of the NWC and gave weather-related and Science on a Sphere presentations.  Vehicles used in the VORTEX2 tornado study were also on display.

Event hosts include the Norman Chamber of Commerce Weather Committee, NOAA, University of Oklahoma College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences and the National Weather Center

Background:  The National Weather Festival aims to reach out to the community by providing opportunities to learn about operational weather activities, current research and to promote interest in weather to people of all ages.

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NSSL to host second national symposium on MPAR

“Moving Forward with Risk Reduction for Cost Effective Service Improvements” is the theme for the second symposium to be hosted by NSSL on the latest developments in Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR). The symposium will be held November 17-19, 2009 at the National Weather Center (NWC) in Norman, Okla., and is sponsored by the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Meteorology.

Formal presentations, senior-level panel discussions and exhibits of the latest phased array radar technology are scheduled. Panels of invited speakers from government, academia, and the commercial sector will be offered with ample opportunities for discussion.

The symposium aims to advance the state of MPAR research and development with a review of MPAR risk-reduction implementation strategies and a discussion of MPAR multi-functionality with respect to air surveillance, air traffic management, weather, and chemical or biological release monitoring. The symposium will review the progress of MPAR-related research and development, and explore the challenges and next steps to deliver a cost-effective phased array radar capability. The social and economic benefits offered through the use of phased array radar technology will also be discussed.

Background: Our Nation’s legacy radar systems are aging and will need replacement. MPAR offers the most significant new technological capability to address both current and anticipated radar needs and gaps, as well as a single technological pathway. Its versatility and adaptive scanning capability addresses a wide array of national surveillance needs, both for weather and aircraft.

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