Weather Blog

Coastal radar is up and running!

Coastal radar is up and running!
The first composite image of the new coastal radar into the KOMO Weather Center computer at 12:49 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2011.

Christmas has come early to Seattle meteorologists...

The National Weather Service announced Wednesday that our new radar at Langley Hill on the Washington coast is now operational -- about a week early!

The new data is now streaming into the KOMO Weather Center and the new radar images will be an intergral part of our weather coverage from here on out.

(In case you've missed all the hoopla this new radar can do, check out Cliff Mass' excellent site that has all the details.)

It now means we'll actually be able to see rain coming in from off the coast, and Hoquiam won't be left in the radar shadow anymore.

And here is the current radar loop:

But the early start to the coastal radar means the Seattle radar will be shut down eariler than anticipated for its upgrade.

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. We'll be able to partially show any incoming rain from the edges of the Portland radar (when it comes back online. It's in the middle of its upgrade now)  and the new coastal radar, but for those two weeks, our radar coverage won't be as complete as usual. We'll leave a note on our weather page as to why there is no coverage, but it'll be worth the wait!

Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are atop the list of these radar upgrades, and when Spokane is complete by the end of October, Washington will be the first state in the nation to have all its radars on this new technology.

Help make the radar even better!

And while we're talking radar, I wanted to forward another plea from the folks at NOAA for volunteers to join the CoCoRaHS observers network. Not only will you be helping researchers and the public get accurate rainfall data from around the region, but you can actually make the radar better!

The new radar will have better technology to be able to estimate rainfall rates and accumulations than the current radars, but the algorithm was developed in Oklahoma and Colorado, says Ted Buenher with the National Weather Service office in Seattle.

"So essentially, the technology is being tested for the first time in new environments around the country including ours," he said.

Washington will be the first state to have all its radars equipped with the new technology and they'd love to have more rainfall observers to increase its accuracy.

They have 700 volunteers in the group now, but want at least 5,000.

"I like to call it instead of boots on the ground, rain gauges on the ground," Buehner said. "The denser rain gauge network would help validate the new technology for the first 'real' time in a potential major event."

It's easy to sign up -- just go to CoCoRaHS.org. You can even buy a rain gauge from the site for a nominal fee. Then, you just need to remember to submit the data every morning.