Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Max Storm Doppler Radar

The day after Christmas saw the unveiling of our new Doppler Radar display.  What is this and why is it important?

It may be hard for some of you to get excited over new technology.  When a kid gets a new video game as a present, he can't wait to get to it.  Parents are left scratching their head wondering what is the big deal.  At least he is happy with the new game.  Meanwhile, the kid is conquering the world with the new game.  He gets it.

This new version is a significant upgrade to the current technology.  We decided to call it Max Storm Doppler Radar since the entire graphics suite is Trueview Max.  In reality almost all weather radars are Doppler radars now.  The transformation began in the late 1980s and was almost completely changed by 2005.  What is different is how the data is handled from the Doppler radar.

Thus, this is a software upgrade to our weather computers.  The presentation has a higher resolution, can display up to five live radars, offers greater analytical capabilities, the user interface is better, and is encompassed in one computer system.

Mother Nature was kind enough to provide us with a realtime test of the system this morning as a band of storms raced across parts of South Carolina.  Yes, there were some system failures and minor bugs to correct, but rarely has a new system come under fire so quickly after going operational.  The system is now performing better in less than 24 hours and I think it is surpassing our expectations.

Can I list all of the advantages of the new system? No. Like any new toy there is a learning curve, which is why this mornings' storms were important to us.  There is nothing like "trial by fire".

There are differences in the display which are obvious when comparing with the older Doppler display.  You can still see the older display on our digital channel 19-2.  This channel will continue to feed the radar using the older display, but it will be uninterrupted.

One of the dramatic differences is with the 3D display.  The older version could display multiple live radars in three dimensions, but in low resolution.  Max Storm Doppler Radar allows 3D displays, but only from one radar at a time.  However, that display is at a much higher resolution which provides us with a more detailed picture of the storm vertically.

Fig. 1 An example of the 3D display from the Max Storm Doppler Radar taken Tuesday morning, December 27, 2011.

The Doppler radars that are used to provide the information are the National Weather Service network of Doppler radars.  This is the most advanced network of Doppler radars in the world.  The network will be undergoing upgrades over the next couple of years to become Dual-Polarization Doppler radars.  Then in the about 5 to 7 years the network will be upgraded again to Phase-Arrayed Doppler radars.  More on these developments at a later date.