Better weather forecasts?

Doppler radar upgrade called most significant advance in decades

The weather undoubtedly will continue to act independently of humans, but the National Weather Service is upgrading its Doppler radar network to get more accurate and more timely information for Southwest Colorado.

The agency announced Wednesday that its new dual-polarization technology will allow meteorologists to distinguish among rain, snow and hail; detect hail in thunderstorms; and get a more accurate idea of how much rain is falling – information vital for issuing flash-flood warnings.

Doppler radar, which currently emits horizontal impulses, tells forecasters the direction and speed of precipitation.

The upgraded radar will emit vertical impulses, as well, to provide a clearer picture of what meteorologists see.

The new radar will allow meteorologists to monitor the transition from snow to sleet and identify tornado debris and track its path.

Enhanced confidence in weather forecasts will improve public response to warnings and improve readiness, the agency said.

National Weather Service offices across the country, including the office in Grand Junction that covers Western Colorado and Eastern Utah, will receive the new equipment.

“This radar upgrade will help us provide better short-term forecasts and warnings,” Mike Meyers, the meteorologist in charge of the Grand Junction office, said in a statement.

In all, 122 National Weather Service radar sites and 38 sites belonging to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and military installations will receive dual-polarization radar.

Installation is scheduled to begin Sept. 17 and be completed by mid-2013.

The cost for all the sites will be $50 million.

“This is the most significant upgrade to the national weather radar network since Doppler radar was installed in the early 1990s,” Laura Furgione, acting director of the National Weather Service, said in a statement.

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