Cantwell: Radar for Accurate Storm Warnings Available One Year Early

will be among first states to get state-of-the-art Doppler technology to ensure more accurate weather forecasts for the Pacific Northwest

SEATTLE, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell announced that Washington state’s first coastal Doppler radar will be deployed in September 2011 – a year earlier than originally anticipated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has identified a radar that can be obtained from the Air Force and modified to give Washington state and the entire Pacific Northwest state-of-the-art technology for accurate storm warnings.
 “Although Washington bears the brunt of wintertime Pacific storms, our weather radar coverage has been shockingly inadequate, putting lives and property at risk,” said Senator Cantwell.  “By acquiring this new radar technology and positioning the system west of the Cascades, Washingtonians can better prepare for the impact of the big Pacific storms on businesses and homes. I am thrilled we can do this a year ahead of schedule.”
NOAA identified an Air Force NEXRAD radar at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi that will no longer be needed for military training.  The radar will be upgraded with the most sophisticated technology available and placed near Grays Harbor.  By updating an existing radar rather than purchasing a new system, Washington will get radar coverage significantly faster and within budget.  The National Weather Service, a branch of NOAA, will announce site finalists for the location of the radar in late June.
This radar will be one of the first in the nation using ‘dual polarization’ in civilian weather forecasting.  The dual polarization technology provides an in-depth look at weather systems, scanning vertically as well as horizontally, enabling the National Weather Service to better predict the type, intensity, and duration of precipitation.  Most Doppler radars in use today provide only a horizontal view of storms and precipitation. The Weather Service plans to eventually upgrade most of its weather radars to this capability.
Senator Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee, has led the effort to improve weather forecasting in the Pacific Northwest. In 2007, she obtained funds to complete a study, released in May 2009, which demonstrated the gap in Washington state’s weather radar coverage.  She secured full funding for this radar system through a $2 million down payment in the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill, and $7 million included in the 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act.