New weather radar could be a game changer
A weather radar system purchased by the University of Georgia Georgia Tech could improve weather forecasting in north Georgia – provide expanded educational opportunities for students and enhance the research capabilities of both institutions.
“Having this radar is a game-changer for our state,” said Marshall Shepherd, director of UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program. “Not only is this a service that can save the lives of Georgians, it is a unique educational and research tool for students at both institutions.” Shepherd said the radar will open up new research opportunities related to monitoring severe weather, forecasting winter weather, assessing urban flooding, birds and even insects.
Severe weather is an ongoing threat to North Georgia and can result in loss of life and property. The new radar system will fill a known gap in radar coverage over northeast Georgia due to NEXRAD’s existing network coverage and terrain. The large landfill is also clogging the beam of a terminal Doppler weather radar located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
A feed from the commercial Furuno WR-2100 radar, which will be located in Gwinnett County, will be shared with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City and with other interested organizations. Beyond hurricanes and other severe storms, radar can help forecasters predict winter precipitation and provide better rainfall estimates for flood warnings.
“The radar will be used collaboratively to provide enhanced warning to people in north Georgia, to provide educational opportunities for students at both institutions, and to provide research opportunities for UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, Georgia Tech’s Severe Storms Research Center, and the Georgia Tech Research Center,” said John Trostle. , Director, SSRC: “School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.”
Trostel and his colleagues at GTRI became aware of the radar’s availability and reached out to UGA colleagues about collaborating on the acquisition. The 3-year-old device, which operates in the X-band, was used at the manufacturer’s research facility.
John Knox, the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Georgia, also envisions radar information serving the public in another way. UGA’s student-run digital meteorology program, “WeatherDawgs,” serves more than 70,000 followers throughout North Georgia.
“The radar will allow UGA students to learn how to display, interpret and use X-band radar data as well as how best to communicate it to the public,” Knox said.
Jessica Lucigo, a research scientist at the Weather Research Center, said the new device will support the center’s long-term goals and expand cooperation in weather forecasting.
“This is a unique opportunity for collaboration, and we look forward to working with UGA and NWS to maximize the utility of this radar for research, education and operations,” Lucigo said. “This equipment will support our efforts to understand the evolution and dynamics of severe storms in Georgia and lead to better capabilities to track these storms.”
The weather radar costs about $150,000 and was acquired through donations and internal funding at UGA and Georgia Tech. Shepard and Tom Mott, founding director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia and associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, contributed funds from institutional research budgets. A major financial gift was also received from Elaine Neal, a long-time donor to the University of Georgia’s Department of Geography, which houses the Atmospheric Sciences Program.
At Georgia Tech, funds were provided by GTRI’s Electromagnetic Sensors and Applications Laboratory, the Aerospace, Transportation, and Advanced Systems Laboratory, the Georgia Tech Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, and the Georgia Tech College of Engineering.
The 1998 tornado that struck Gainesville led to the appointment of a task force to study steps that could be taken to protect citizens from severe weather in the future. Among its recommendations is adding radar to “bridge the gap” in northeastern Georgia. Once placed in Gwinnett County after testing at GTRI, the new Georgia Tech-UGA radar will help address that long-standing recommendation.