What can be learned in Oklahoma about Pacific Northwest storms?


by KING 5 News


Posted on September 26, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 26 at 6:21 PM

You're invited to watch a KING 5 special program "Beyond the Forecast: Tracking the Storm," on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on KING 5. The KING 5 weather team will show you how computer models help determine the forecast and they will have an early prediction for this year's winter weather.

Washington's new coastal radar that went online last week will be officially dedicated this Thursday.

The radar, located near Ocean Shores, will provide a better look at approaching storms just in time for storm season. It uses new technology developed by the National Weather Center in Oklahoma.

KING 5's Chief Meteorologist Jeff Renner went to Oklahoma to learn how to use the new technology from the experts.

Just look at last November's snow storm in the Puget Sound or this spring's tornado outbreaks in the Midwest. Those types of weather events show the need for earlier detection, more accurate warnings, and motivated the development of more sophisticated weather radars. It's called dual-polarization Doppler radar.

There is much to learn about the sophisticated system. Renner spent a week in Norman, Oklahoma, learning the ins and outs of what it can do.

"The State of Washington will be the first state covered by dual pol and NEXRAD radars," said Roger Hall, development manager for the National Weather Service.

The radar houses tubes, called "wave guides," that snake around the 27-foot antenna. They transmit not one, but two pulses of radar energy simultaneously. The resulting images are like taking a CAT scan of a cloud.

Understanding and interpreting the complex information the radar supplies also meant time in the classroom for Renner with radar meteorologist Andy Wood. He emphasized the new dual pol radar technology offers strong benefits to areas such as Western Washington, especially when snow threatens.

"Say for instance in your area where you have a lot of terrain…you might be able to actually see where the snow levels are at…and see how they may drop or even go up," he showed.

The technology has not only been installed at the Ocean Shores radar, but it's also being installed on the National Weather Service radar on Camano Island, which will help forecasters estimate which neighborhoods are most likely to receive snow or rain.