OU Acquires New Mobile Radar To Better Understand Tornadoes
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology have a new mobile radar that will allow them to study tornadoes and other rapidly evolving meteorological phenomena.
Howard Bluestein, OU School of Meteorology professor, recently received a rapid-scan, high-resolution, polarimetric, mobile, truck-mounted Doppler radar through a grant from the National Science Foundation.
"Advanced technology and affordability have been combined to make this the first system that will be able to achieve a fully polarimetric image of an entire severe storm from top to bottom and everything else within range of the storm in less than 30 seconds," said Bluestein. "Currently, a tornado's relationship to its parent storm and tornado formation, which can occur in just a matter of tens of seconds, is not well understood. Electronically scanning, rapid-scan radars available to study them are extremely expensive and do not yet have polarimetric capability.
"The new mobile radar at OU cost $1.25 million; the National Science Foundation provided $875,000 and OU provided $375,000 in cost sharing funds. The Doppler radar also has dual-polarization capabilities. This means that both horizontally and vertically polarized radio wave pulses are transmitted, allowing for a more detailed view inside the storm. For example, it will be possible to distinguish raindrops from hail and also to determine the size and shape of both."
The radar will become part of a growing arsenal of advanced weather radars operated by the OU Atmospheric Radar Research Center.
"This mobile radar will be a great addition to the hands-on learning experience that our meteorology and engineering students are already accustomed to receiving," said Robert Palmer, ARRC director and OU School of Meteorology professor. "With the advanced design and flexibility of this new mobile radar, the students and faculty will be able to rapidly design, implement and actually use their ideas in the field to observe severe storms. The educational opportunities are tremendous!"
This research has broader implications. Bluestein and other researchers involved with this project would like to see their efforts ultimately provide a better understanding of damaging and injury-causing storms. By gaining this understanding, improved warnings could then be issued to the public.
[Photo: courtesy Dr. Howard Bluestein]