Who Wants to Look at the New Weather Radar? No Pushing.

NWS radar image

It’s an early Christmas for Cliff Mass and area meteorologists, as Washington’s new coastal radar system has come online a little in advance of its official debut on September 30, 2011.

How much of a difference could there be? Quite a lot, it turns out. Meteorologists have known for some time that the Olympic mountain range makes a better door than a window, and now you can compare and contrast. Is it better the old way? Or the new way? The old way? The new way?

When the weather service calls it the “coastal radar,” they aren’t kidding. Now we can see what’s off the coast; Hoquiam, which was shrouded in atmospheric mystery before, will likely become a new weather star. All the TV stations have jumped on the new data feed: KOMO, KIRO, KING, KCPQ.

That said, shortly our Seattle-area weather radar is about to get worse…then get better. I’ll let KOMO’s Scott Sistek explain:

The new “dual-pol” technology that the coastal radar has, allowing us to see the precipitation with greater detail and clarity, is coming to the main Seattle radar on Camano Island as well.

But it takes about 10-14 days to install the technology upgrade, and technicians have moved up the timetable to begin Seattle’s upgrade on Thursday or Friday (but likely Friday, the National Weather Service tells me.)

Thus, there will be a period coming up here where there will be no Seattle radar coverage.

The National Weather Service lists some of the potential benefits from the ability to scan both horizontally (current capability) and vertically (the upgrade):

  • Better estimation of total precipitation
  • Better estimation of the size distribution of hydrometeors
  • Improved ability to identify areas of heavy rainfall (flash flooding potential)
  • Improved detection and mitigation of non-weather echoes
  • Easier identification of the melting layer (helpful for identifying snow levels in higher terrain)
  • Ability to classify precipitation type
  • New severe thunderstorm signatures