Today marks the beginning of a major change here in Iowa. Today the Next Generation Radar, or NEXRAD, will be shut off for good at the National Weather Service in the Quad Cities. The office will rely on its neighbors to track showers and thunderstorms for the next 2 weeks.
During that time, a new radar will be installed. Although still referenced as NEXRAD this radar will be much different. It’s called dual-polarization radar, and it’s an amazing new piece of technology.
Dual-pol radar will allow forecasters to scan the sky three dimensionally and detect storms like never before. Instead of seeing the possible signs of a tornado, they’ll be able to see the debris that confirms it’s on the ground. Instead of seeing rainfall rates tainted by hail or ice, dual-pol radar can tell the difference between rain, hail, sleet, snow, etc. What that means is more accurate precipitation estimates that will improve the accuracy of warnings and advisories.
In other parts of the country, dual-pol radar has already shown what it can do, increasing lead times for tornadoes and more accurately depicting what’s going on inside a storm. This will be a great additional to the nation’s weather arsenal. As for when the new radar will go online in the Quad Cities, that’s slated to happen April 2nd.