NSSL partnership with private industry benefits thousands in Arizona

NSSL's mobile radar scans a dust storm near Phoenix, AZ.

NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) has a ten-year cooperative research venture with the Salt River Project (SRP), an Arizona power and water utility, to develop weather decision support tools for the company’s power dispatch, transmission operations, and water diversion. In 2011, an NSSL-produced prototype algorithm that provided advance notice to prepare for the impact of a severe dust storm in Phoenix. This week, NSSL launches a month-long study using mobile radar to verify its microburst and haboob prediction algorithms. These data help SRP serve 920,000 electric customers in the Phoenix area and deliver nearly 1 million acre-feet of water annually to a service area in central Arizona.

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NSSL’s mobile radar being used to help understand dust storms

NSSL's mobile radar prepares to scan a thunderstorm in the desert near Phoenix, Ariz.

NSSL’s dual-polarized mobile Doppler radar team coordinated operations with the Phoenix National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office and the NWS Radar Operations Center during dust storm events during July and August.  Their mission was to collect data on the vertical extent of the dust to compare with the Phoenix NWS radar data, recently upgraded with dual-polarization technology.

To date, data has been collected on seven dust storms, with four of them being considered as “major.”

NWS forecasters observed a mysterious shadow in the radar data during the dust storm on July 19, 2011.  They also re-examined dual-polarized radar data from the large dust storm on July 5, 2011.  During that event, the shadows were more pronounced, and along and slightly behind the leading edge of the dust storm.

NWS forecasters hope combining both data sets will reveal some clues about their existence.

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