2013 NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Spring Experiments

Lowering west of PAR, 2006During the 2013 central Oklahoma severe weather season, researchers will demonstrate and evaluate new capabilities developed for the NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar (NWRT/PAR). The most recent software upgrade, released in March 2013 provides new automated storm detection, tracking and scheduled scanning capabilities for NWRT/PAR.

Researchers will target storms within 120nm of NWRT/PAR to examine the strengths and limitations of storm cluster identification and tracking algorithms, and their usefulness for enhanced rapid sampling of severe storms. They will also use the data to understand how a thunderstorm evolves into a supercell and as it begins to produce a downburst or possible tornado. Researchers will evaluate how useful this information could be for enhanced warning lead-time during severe weather warning operations.

In addition, NSSL will work with 12 National Weather Service forecasters during six weeks in May, June, and July. They will assess how the use of rapid-scan NWRT/PAR helps with situational awareness and warning decisions during simulated severe weather events.

New this year, NSSL’s dual-pol research radar will be used as a proxy for future dual-pol Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR) observations. Researchers will observe rapid changes in dual-pol signatures that occur in cyclic supercells and downbursts.



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NSSL team releases Spring 2013 radar software upgrades

Lowering west of PAR, 2006Twice each year NSSL engineers release a software upgrade to improve the capabilities of the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar (NWRT PAR).  The Spring 2013 upgrade was released this week and is now operational.

Specific goals for this project are to improve the quality of meteorological data produced by the NWRT PAR, to demonstrate adaptive scanning capabilities for weather observations, and to demonstrate dynamic scheduling of multi-function scanning strategies.

The new software release includes:

– A new algorithm that identifies and tracks clusters of storms

– Automatic time-based scheduling of storm regions

– Scheduling and processing of a scan that quickly detects newly formed storms

– Real-time controller improvements to reduce initial range of collection and to allow frequent switching between pulse repetition times

– Improvements to control and monitor the system and its algorithms

– Improvements to handle ground-clutter and range-and-velocity ambiguity issues

– Software infrastructure improvements to prevent data drops

New and advanced real-time signal processing techniques continue to provide researchers and users with an optimum platform for demonstrating and evaluating the Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR) concept.

More information about the MPARSUP project can be found at:


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New video: NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Radar Research

New video about NSSL radar research
New video about NSSL radar research

NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory has led the nation in severe weather research for more than 40 years.

A new video traces NSSL’s legacy of life saving weather radar research from the development of Doppler weather radar to the most recent research with phased array radar. This technology has moved the U.S. from having no warning of severe weather to now an average of 15-minutes advanced notice.  Current research with phased array radar promises to extend the warning lead-time much further.

The video also highlights the unique research to operations partnership between NSSL and the NOAA NWSFO in Norman, Okla.


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NSSL leverages new technologies in winter weather experiment

21Jan 2012
Dual-pol radar data of a winter precipitation event in New York.

NSSL and collaborators will leverage new technology including dual-polarized radar observations and a precipitation reporting mobile device app to improve forecasts of winter weather during February and March.

The experiment will evaluate the performance of new algorithms that use dual-polarized radar data and determine what new tools could be developed to improve detection of precipitation type and amount in winter storms.

The group will assess a new technique that is a “first-guess” of precipitation type using dual-pol data and compare it to observations collected from the Precipitation Identification Near the Ground mobile app and the Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment phone calls. They plan to identify potential biases and regions of poor performance.

They will also look at quantitative precipitation estimation products that include dual-polarized information and compare them to current products to see if dual-polarized data improves the result.

The experiment is a collaboration between NSSL, the Storm Prediction Center, the Norman Weather Forecast Office, the National Weather Service Warning Decision Training Branch and the Radar Operations Center.

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NSSL researchers join large, international flash flood project in Europe

10-year project expected to reveal important findings beneficial to the United States

NOAA, NASA and the University of Connecticut are representing the United States in the Hydrological Cycle in the Mediterranean Experiment (HyMeX), the largest weather field research project in European history.

HyMex is a 10-year international effort to better understand, quantify and model the hydrologic cycle in support of improved forecasts and warnings of flash floods in the Mediterranean region.

The project targets central Italy, southern France, the Balearic Islands, Corsica and northern Italy — all areas particularly susceptible to devastating flash flood events. Improved understanding of the land, atmosphere and ocean interactions that contribute to flash flooding in this part of the world will advance the state of the science that will ultimately be represented in forecast models with application in the United States.

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) researchers will operate a mobile radar, NOAA – XPol (NOXP), in southeast France from Sept. 10 to Nov. 10. This is the first of several special observation periods during the HyMeX 10-year timeframe. Additionally, NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service is sponsoring scientists from New Mexico Tech to operate and evaluate a Lightning Mapping Array during HyMeX to support product development and validation for the future Geostationary Lightning Mapper on NOAA’s GOES-R satellite, which is scheduled to launch in late 2015.

The radar will provide high-resolution data and low altitude scans to help determine the size of the raindrops, the intensity of rainfall, and rainfall rates to help predict flash flooding conditions in the Cévennes Vivarais region of France.

During autumn, onshore moisture from the Mediterranean Sea encounters the 5,000-feet high Cévennes Mountains in southeast France making numerous towns and villages particularly subject to severe flash flood events.

Over the next three months, NSSL researcher will operate the NOAA-XPol mobile radar in southeast France as part of the HyMeX experiment, the largest weather field research project in European history.

“Data collected in the air, at sea and on land will shed light on how catastrophic flash-flooding events begin, which may help local officials better prepare for and respond to these types of emergencies,” said Jonathan Gourley, Ph.D., an NSSL research hydrologist.

Other sensors include three instrumented research aircraft, three research ships, buoys, ocean sensors, additional mobile precipitation radars, cloud radars and microradars, hundreds of rain gauges, ten disdrometers (to measure size and speed of individual raindrops), a dozen lidars, sonar, instrumented balloons, wind profilers, and a lightning mapping array.

NSSL’s participation in HyMeX is sponsored by MétéoFrance, and operations are coordinated with the Cévennes-Vivarais Mediterranean Hydro-Meteorological Observatory, The University of Grenoble, NASA, University of Connecticut and Cemagraf.

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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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Phased array radar Spring 2012 projects

The NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Multi-function Phased Array Radar will support three experiments with data collection during the spring of 2012 as part of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment (PARISE).

The Severe Weather Outbreak Study is a NOAA NSSL program to determine the importance of rapid and adaptive scanning from MPAR in the depiction and understanding of weather events with potential for significant societal impacts. The research field phase is from April 14 – June 15 2012 over the MPAR domain (defined as significant weather sampled within 120 km of MPAR).   The main focus of this study to sample rare significant events such as tornado outbreaks.

NSSL will partner with MIT/Lincoln Labs and the FAA on the Multi-function Phased Array Radar’s (MPAR) Wind-Shear Detection Capability Assessment Experiment from April 16 – June 15, 2012.  Low-altitude wind shear is a deadly threat to aircraft during landing and takeoff and its accurate and timely detection near airports is critical.  Microbursts, in particular, are fairly small and evolve rapidly.  There are 45 Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (TDWR) currently serving U.S. airports. MPAR’s have the potential to replace TDWRs at the end of their life cycle, provided they can effectively detect wind shear.  Researchers will compare radar data from the Oklahoma City TDWR with data from the NOAA MPAR.

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) experiment will explore the role of the thunderstorm updrafts in carrying electrically charged particles, water vapor and other chemicals to the upper parts of our atmosphere.  Scientists from more than two dozen organizations will use research aircraft, mobile radars, lightning mapping arrays and other tools to make measurements that will help scientists understand more about the electrical and chemical structure of thunderstorms, including the concentration of ozone.  DC3 will focus on Alabama, Colorado and Oklahoma, but when thunderstorms are within 120 km of the Multi-function Phased Array Radar in central Oklahoma, teams will coordinate data collection. The project runs from May 15 –  June 30, 2012 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.

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Spread the word: We need your precipitation reports!

NSSL is now collecting two types of winter weather reports from the public to help evaluate the performance of a new winter weather precipitation algorithm. NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) radars across the U.S. are in the process of being upgraded with dual-polarization technology that can detect the difference between rain, sleet, snow, and hail.  The algorithm sorts dual-polarized radar data into types of liquid or frozen precipitation to help forecasters quickly assess a precipitation event and better forecast how much will fall.

To help evaluate and refine the algorithm, the mostly student-run NSSL/CIMMS Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment (SHAVE) started collecting winter weather precipitation reports through phone surveys during the week of February 3, 2012.  SHAVE reports, when combined with the voluntary reports collected by the NWS, creates a unique and comprehensive database of winter weather weather events used to evaluate algorithm performance.  SHAVE previously had been a primarily summer project, collecting more than 45,000 reports of hail size, wind damage and flash flooding since it began in 2005.

NSSL’s Precipitation Identification Near the Ground (PING) project requests public precipitation reports at  http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/winter/  from any area within 90-miles of a radar upgraded with dual-polarization radar technology. Researchers compare the reports of precipitation with what is detected by the dual-polarized radar data.  Volunteers have submitted more than 5,000 reports of snow, ice pellets, drizzle and rain since the beginning of the project in 2006.

Both projects are ongoing.

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NSSL/CIMMS hosting Chinese Ministry of Water Resources visitors

A team from the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) is in Norman, Okla., to work with NSSL’s National Mosaic and multi-sensor Quantitative precipitation estimation (NMQ) system.

China recently implemented a national Doppler weather radar network similar to NEXRAD, and they are using NMQ to incorporate the radar observations into their operations.

Traditionally, the MWR has used rain gauge data only for their flood warnings and water resource management.

Through a collaboration project with CIMMS, NSSL installed the NMQ system for a pilot domain of the Huai River and the middle reach of the Yellow River in China for the MWR.

The system has been running in China in real-time since June 2011 and has demonstrated its capabilities of integrating data from radar, rain gauge, and atmospheric model and generating high-resolution QPE products operationally.

Based on the pilot domain experiment, the MWR now plans to expand the system to their local Water Resources Commissions, similar to the NWS River Forecast Centers.  The visitors are being trained at NSSL on the NMQ system configurations and real-time management.

Future collaborations will be focused on customizations and refinements of NMQ’s scientific components for the local environment in China.

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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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