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NOAA's phased array radar.January 10, 2002 — Phased-array radar technology, currently used to support tactical operations aboard Navy ships, will soon be adapted for weather detection. Development of this state-of-the-art radar technology led by NOAA may help forecasters provide earlier warnings for tornadoes and other hazardous weather. (Click NOAA image for larger view. Click here for tiff version of this image. Please credit "NOAA.")

In the next two years, a National Weather Radar Testbed will be established at NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., providing the meteorological research community with the first phased-array radar facility available on a full-time basis. The project—from research and development to technology transfer and deployment throughout the U.S.—is expected to take 10 to 15 years with an initial cost of approximately $25 million for the Norman facility.

Participants with the NSSL include NOAA's National Weather Service, Lockheed Martin, U.S. Navy, University of Oklahoma's School of Meteorology and College of Engineering and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Phased-array radar uses electronically controlled beams. This reduces the scan time of severe weather from five to six minutes for current radar technology to only one minute, producing fast updates of data, and thereby potentially increasing the average lead time for tornado warnings. It will also be able to re-scan areas of severe weather very quickly, potentially increasing forecasters' warning lead times as storms rapidly transition to more severe levels. In addition, the new system will be able to scan the atmosphere with more detail at lower elevations than current radar allows.

"Early tests of this phased-array radar system have proved promising," said Doug Forsyth, chief of the NSSL's Radar Research and Development Division. "The National Weather Radar Testbed will allow NSSL and other meteorologists to determine if phased-array radar will become one of the next significant technology advancement to improve our nation's weather services."

The new technology will gather storm information not currently available, such as rapid changes in wind fields, to provide more thorough understanding of storm evolution. Researchers and forecasters can then improve conceptual storm models and use that knowledge to evaluate and improve stormscale computer models. The data also will be used to initialize computer models and improve forecasts.

Nearly 30 years ago, NSSL was a major participant in the development of Doppler technology that became the heart of the WSR-88D radar, commonly known as NEXRAD. The deployment of a system of NEXRAD radars across the United States became a cornerstone of the modernization of NOAA's National Weather Service.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NWS operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA's Phased Array Radar

NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory

Tornado Statistics from NOAA's Storm Prediction Center

StormReady Program

NOAA's National Severe Storms Lab

All About Tornadoes, including the Fujita Scale

Tornadoes...Nature's Most Violent Storms

Vortex: Unraveling the Secrets

NOAA Weather Radio

Tornado Photos Online

NOAA's Weather Page

Media Contact:
Keli Tarp, NOAA's National Severe Storms Lab, Norman, Okla., (405) 366-0451 or (405) 203-4839 mobile