New radar sensor to be installed at Discovery Park

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A new weather radar sensor like the one shown above will be installed soon at the University of North Texas’ Discovery Park. It is one of four CASA (Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere) radar units being installed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area through a partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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A new weather radar sensor is going up at the University of North Texas’ Discovery Park.

It is one of four CASA (Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere) units being installed in the Dallas-Fort Worth area through a partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

UNT plans to have the radar sensor installed during the beginning of the summer, said Luis Tapia, emergency management coordinator with UNT.

The new radar fills in the gaps left by other radar systems, Tapia said.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will be the first urban test bed for this work, he said. The CASA team has a rural test bed set up in Oklahoma but now wants to see if the radar system will work in an urban setting, Tapia said.

“That’s why this cutting-edge radar tech is being installed in the D-FW metroplex,” he said.

Meteorologists and researchers also will get the information more quickly than from current radars. The CASA radar scans every 30 seconds to a minute, while currently the fastest scans near the ground are every three and a half minutes, said Jason Dunn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

“The resolution of these radars is considerably higher,” Dunn said. “[We’ll] see things within storms that we don’t see with our current system.”

He also said the CASA sensors — at 10 feet tall — are relatively small compared with other weather detection systems, such as Doppler radar.

“These [CASA] radars are scanning near the ground,” he said. “And that’s where the weather occurs. They are going to give us a good look at what’s going on near the ground.”

Current weather detection systems show big storms that produce big tornadoes, and the CASA system will help meteorologist isolate the smaller tornadoes and areas of enhanced wind damage, Dunn said.

“We’re going to really narrow down locations — areas that are going to be impacted by significant weather,” he said.

CASA is also good at estimating rainfall, he said.

“This system is going to help with urban flash flooding,” Dunn said.

UNT students and researchers will use incoming data to aid in emergency management research, Tapia said.

“By partnering with the CASA radar initiative, we will be able to access the raw data,” he said.

UNT researchers are studying a variety of topics in the area, including how people behave during a weather emergency and how they interpret warning notifications, he said.

CASA sensors also will be installed at the University of Texas at Arlington, in the Addison area and near Alliance Airport, Dunn said. The exact sites are still being decided.

The sensors need to be in close proximity to one another, he said, because their range is about 25 miles.

Thus, Dunn said, more installations will be needed, and although there will be some overlap in coverage, the system will allow researchers greater insight into weather patterns.

“We’ll be able to get a better idea of what the winds are really doing,” he said.

Next year, the CASA team plans to add four more units in the area, with the goal to eventually have 20 in the North Texas region, Dunn said.

RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is rmehlhaff@dentonrc.com.


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