By Jeffrey Swindoll
A new and improved radar may help predict weather phenonmenon in Waco.
Greg Patrick, from the Weather Forecast Office of the National Weather Service in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, demonstrated a special type of weather radar during a Seminar Series sponsored by the Department of Environmental Science. About 50 Baylor students and faculty were in attendance at the Thursday lecture in Baylor Sciences Building.
Patrick demonstrated the capabilities of the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) radar in comparison to other radars. The Dallas-Fort Worth Urbanization Network is currently working on researching and installing CASA radars across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
CASA radars can assist communities during natural disasters such as tornadoes or flash floods.
“This project is probably many years from being implemented, but it’s something to think about in the social sciences world,” Patrick said. “Our main mission is protection of life and property.”
Using dual-polarization radio waves, CASA radars offer more accurate and specific information of weather in a faster, and easier-to-read way than previous radars. Patrick explained that a CASA radar has more detail and higher resolution images in comparison to a WSR-88D radar, a more commonly used radar, from the same tornado occurrence.
“They’re very different radars,” Patrick said about the CASA and WSR-88D radars.
CASA radars cost about $500,000 each while WSR-88D radars cost about $4 million each.
CASA radars function for various uses including rainfall estimates, urban flash flood modeling and warning, economic benefits from data and future warn-on forecasts.
“They could increase public safety, and more specific forecast warnings,” Patrick said. Patrick added that first responders could possibly get a 20-30 minute jump on where the tornado is and where they need to be hypothetically.
“If you’ve got this data available to you as an emergency manager then you don’t have to worry about what the TV guys are saying because you’ve got it right there,” Mark Fox, also from the National Weather Service, said after the presentation.
Not only can tornadoes be predicted quicker with CASA radars, but the exact location and possible affected areas can be identified more specifically.
“A localized radar would allow the people in more neglected counties to be able to do their own thing,” Dr. Don Greene, a professor in the Geology Department, said after the presentation in reference to how communities would prepare and respond to natural disasters in a timely manner.
There have been two CASA radars installed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as of July 2013 on the campuses of the University of Texas in Arlington and the University of North Texas in Denton. Two more radars are to be installed during fall 2013 in Addison and Fort Worth.
The two completed installations are part of a total of eight proposed installations in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area to be completed around 2015. The rest of the eight CASA radars to be installed are expected to be construced in Midlothian, Southeast Dallas, McKinney, and Parker County.
“I feel confident that there will be eight radars installed,” Patrick said. “We want to expand it to about 20 total radars.” The first two installed radars have been funded mostly from an initial grant of $40 million in 2003, and that same grant will fund the next four CASA radars to be installed.
The proposed 20 radars would totally cover 16 counties in Texas. Future weather radars will feature faster updates, multi-function for aircraft surveillance, and a turntable function to scan all sectors.