overview of projects throughout the organization
After the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) finished setting up a national network of Doppler
radars in the mid-1990s, weather forecasters at the National
Weather Service found themselves with an abundance of local
radar data at NWS offices. The research community was not
so lucky, though. It took weeks for their requests to sample
some of the data to come through, and the archive’s
reliability was spotty at best.
Now, thanks to data distribution software designed by Unidata,
scientists can access the same data available to forecasters
in a matter of minutes. In April, NOAA announced that a set
of four high-capacity sites will redistribute real-time data
from more than 120 radars. Three of the sites will offer
the data to universities without restrictions and to the
private sector on a cost-recovery basis. They’ll use
Unidata’s Local Data Manager software to route the
data to users via Internet2.
“This is a significant milestone for us
and the culmination of many years of collaboration,” says
Unidata director Mohan Ramamurthy. “It’s
a great example of what can be achieved by creative
partnership among academic, government, and private
sector groups.” Further details >
A research team that includes NCAR staffers has
been awarded a $2 million grant to develop a computer-generated
system that will predict wildfire behavior and
progression. The four-year project, called the
Data Dynamic Simulation for Disaster Management
and funded by NSF, will combine computing, satellite
and sensor monitoring, mathematical theory, and
meteorology. It will predict the direction of a
fire and warn firefighters of sudden changes, such
as wind shifts or an abrupt increase in intensity.
The project will include placing sensors around
a wildfire that will continuously collect information
about temperature, wind, ground moisture, and other
factors. This information will be transmitted to
a supercomputer, which will send maps and forecasts
of fire locations to the front lines in real time,
allowing a fire manager to see minute-by-minute
predictions or anticipate where fire growth will
occur along the fire line.
“There are many technological challenges
involved in simulating phenomena that change very
rapidly, and in quickly transmitting data from
remote locations into a model running many possible
scenarios on a supercomputer far away,” explains
RAP’s Janice Coen. The team
includes researchers at CU–Denver, the University
of Kentucky, Texas A&M University, and the
Rochester Institute of Technology. More information
wildfire work >
The buildup of ice on airplanes in flight is a
major wintertime hazard for small and commuter
planes. NCAR scientists recently tested a new radar
system designed to pinpoint water droplets in clouds
that cause icing, and it may ultimately enable
pilots to avoid dangerous areas.
The system, known as S-Polka, combines two existing
radars that use different wavelengths: a powerful
polarized radar, known as S-Pol, that operates
at a frequency of 3,000 Mhz, and a polarized Ka-band
radar that operates at 35,000 MHz. By studying
the differences between the images that are reflected
back to each radar, scientists hope to find tiny
water droplets that are difficult to distinguish
using either radar alone.
RAP’s Jothiram Vivekanandan and Marcia
Politovich, along with other scientists
and engineers, deployed the new radar system
in March at NCAR’s Marshall field use.
Researchers now are focusing on creating algorithms
(mathematical procedures) that will identify
and measure droplets within the radar images
accurately. If all goes well, the instrument
will undergo final tests in a couple of years
and be considered for implementation at airports.
A Web site for data
sets and preliminary results is currently under construction.
This graphic shows preliminary
findings from the S-Polka system. By comparing
the differences between the images from each
radar, researchers can detect an area that
may harbor water droplets (the shaded area
at the bottom right of the “Z difference” image).
(Courtesy Jothiram Vivekanandan.)
Also in this issue...
Shielding the Pentagon
the NCAR Science Store
Wilmot “Bill” Hess