Weather Radar Applications
Weather radar is an integral part of modern weather observation systems and supports operations of national meteorological institutes. The most common application for weather radar is to monitor weather conditions, nationally and locally. A government agency, such as the National Weather Service in the U.S., for example, uses weather radar to provide weather information and warnings to the public. Other applications include using it to enhance numerical weather models, or defense agencies using weather radar for national security and disaster preparedness.
The New Zealand MetService uses Vaisala weather radar to distinguish between precipitation types in clouds, analyze raindrop size, and extend their forecasting range for better forecasting and planning.
A Vaisala weather radar allows meteorologists to:
- Safeguard more lives and properties with improved, more accurate warnings
- Get a more detailed analysis of individual weather systems, especially precipitation types
- Extend a Severe Thunderstorm Warning Service range
Weather radar can be used for hydrological applications, and helps with flood forecasting and water management. Precipitation amounts can vary widely across a forecast area. Weather radar observations will indicate these amounts, and provide a "big picture" view of the situation. Other surface measurements can only detect amounts at their location. Even with a network of surface measurements, the weather radar is better at giving the forecaster a view of the entire area, and will allow them to decide whether or not a flood warning is necessary, or if the warning can be confined to a smaller area.
For water management and hydrological generation, using weather radar can improve precipitation estimates and help authorities plan for the needs of their communities. Ensuring adequate fresh water supplies for growing urban populations as well as domestic agricultural production requires accurate precipitation measurements. With constant monitoring, farmers can optimize their irrigation, drainage, seeding, and pesticide applications, and monitor water levels against overuse. In addition, hydroelectricity is entirely dependent on the constant replenishing of water reservoirs. Thus, operators need real-time observation and forecast data to ensure they have the precipitation available for resupply.
There is increasing use of weather radar for aviation applications. By implementing weather radar, an airport can use the following tools to increase efficiency at an airport and mitigate risk:
- Detect all types of precipitation, especially dangerous types for aircraft, such as hail
- Identify the presence of super-cooled water droplets, which can cause icing problems for aircraft
- Determine the intensity of precipitation that would allow the ground crews to work under safe conditions
- Have the tools needed for air traffic controllers and pilots to better execute pre-flight planning and make safe approaches and landings
- Forecast weather significantly outside the boundaries of terminal area and make appropriate plans to mitigate risk and to optimize airport operations considering the beginning and the end of a storm
- Wind shear, microbursts or gust fronts can have deadly effects on airport operations. Weather radar add the ability to detect and analyze wind, most importantly wind shear.
- Radar helps an airport to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Annex 3 requirements for wind shear warnings.
- Weather radar can be used to measure non-meteorological objects, like birds and insects, which can have a negative effect on efficient airport operations.
No one can control the weather, so the best thing we can do is mitigate the risks, take proper precautions, and be prepared for the weather conditions that affect the aviation industry. Implementing a Vaisala weather radar at or near an airport location is one way to improve safety, increase operational efficiencies, and save costs due to delays in air travel.