On Anniversary Of Irene’s Onset, Leahy In Burlington Announces Vermont Weather Radar Upgrade

New Technology Will Improve Local Weather Forecasts and Warnings

BURLINGTON, Vt. (MONDAY, Aug. 27, 2012) -- U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Monday that the National Weather Service’s Forecast Office in Burlington, Vt., now has an upgraded Doppler radar serving the state with a new life-saving technology.  Dual polarization (“dual pol”) radar provides meteorologists with enhanced information about the atmosphere so they can more accurately track, assess and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather. 

Burlington, Vt., is the half-way mark in the nationwide dual-pol upgrade.  The upgrade to dual-pol is the most significant enhancement ever made to the nation’s NEXRAD radar network since Doppler radar was first installed in the early 1990s.  The upgrade includes new software and a hardware attachment to the radar dish allowing it to send and receive both horizontal and vertical pulses, providing a much more informative two-dimensional picture about the size and shape of the objects detected.  This provides meteorologists with the ability to determine the kind of object -- whether rain, snow, hail or birds.  Conventional Doppler could only provide information about the intensity of precipitation.

Leahy said, “Today, one year after Irene began to sweep through our state, we vividly remember how, one by one, riverside towns throughout Vermont, like Waterbury, Wilmington, Rochester and many others, were inundated by unanticipated rising waters.  The new radar technology will help NOAA’s National Weather Service keep a sharper eye on the sky, leading to better forecasts and warnings for Vermonters.  This truly is news we all can use -- news we need to know in our daily lives on our farms, for our vital recreation and tourism activities, and in maintaining and maximizing our transportation network.  In an event like Irene, forecasters will be able to provide better information about the amount of rain coming down and issue more accurate and timely warnings to the public.”

Another important benefit:  Dual-pol can also see small bits of debris kicked up by a tornado which gives forecasters the ability to confirm a tornado even in the dark. The new technology also will help detect hazards to aircraft such as icing conditions and birds.

The Burlington forecast office serves 810,000 people in 12 counties in Vermont and four counties across northern New York.  Because of Vermont’s mountainous terrain, flash flooding is a significant weather threat and in an average year causes more damage and deaths than any other kind of severe weather.

“The new radar technology has many benefits including better rainfall estimates which will help us to make better decisions about when to issue a flash flood warning,” said Andy Nash, meteorologist-in-charge of the Burlington forecast office.  “In the winter, the radar will help us pinpoint where rain turns to snow, sleet or freezing rain, subsequently improving short-term forecasts.  Fine-tuned winter forecasts will be beneficial to state and local emergency managers as well as motorists.”

Businesses in Vermont will also benefit from the enhanced information dual-pol brings.  Farmers, utility companies, the ski industry and others that rely on weather forecasts will have a clearer picture of current weather conditions and better information to protect their lives and livelihoods.

The nationwide upgrade to dual-pol is part of NOAA’s efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation.  Dual-pol radars also could save the nation about 700 million dollars annually by reducing weather-related damages. For more about the new weather radar, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX6LH_l3P3Y.

Leahy continued, “Timely and accurate weather information can mean the difference between life and death.  When a storm devastated Vermont in 1927, the fact that it came without warning compounded the toll in lives and property.  Today’s weather forecasts give us more precious time to harvest crops ahead of a flood, or move valuable equipment to higher ground. Every second counts, and this upgraded technology will allow forecasters to more accurately track and assess storms and to warn the public of dangerous weather conditions, whether it is an ice storm in Alburgh or a flash flood in Lincoln.  Better weather forecasts will widen the lead time for warnings and enable greater precision in determining the impact area, thereby saving lives and protecting property. It is as simple as that.”

He concluded, “On the Appropriations Committee, as we put together the annual budget bill for NOAA and the National Weather Service we are keenly aware of the incalculable value of this service to the American people and the American economy, and to Vermont’s economy.  We thank our National Weather Service team here in Vermont, and their counterparts across the nation, for their skilled and vital service.”

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Andy Nash, meteorologist-in-charge, Burlington, Vt. forecast office

802-862-8711 x 222