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Workers lift the new CASA radar sensor onto the roof at the University of North Texas’ Discovery Park on Thursday in Denton.
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New CASA sensor at Discovery Park to help better predict storms

The University of North Texas is nearly a storm-ready university.

On Thursday, a new weather radar sensor called CASA (Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere) was installed at Discovery Park. It will provide severe weather data and storm warnings to the North Texas region.

The radar system is the result of 10 years of National Science Foundation-funded research by the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere led by University of Massachusetts Amherst, with partners Colorado State University and the University of Oklahoma, a news release said.

The radar is one of four that will be installed in the Dallas-Fort Worth region by the end of the summer, said Blake Abbe, senior emergency management specialist with the Risk Management Services Department at UNT.

He said the equipment at UNT should be operational in about three to four weeks.

“The reward for the university is that we now have an instrument that will collect valuable data,” he said. “For emergency management services, it is a great tool that will help us make better decisions and help protect people’s lives and property.”

CASA radar provides data that is five to 10 times more detailed than current radar systems, Abbe said. The radar scans for storms near ground level, compared to higher-atmosphere scanning in current national radar systems. The CASA system can be aimed at and track a particular area of severe weather or concern, compared to current systems that have to scan in a radial pattern, according to the news release.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Fort Worth say forecasters will have a better idea of exactly where the most significant events will occur with any given storm.

In addition to getting high-resolution data and creating more opportunity for grant projects at UNT, the CASA radar will also help create an intensive five-week summer course that will bring different students from various disciplines to conduct research.

Tony Mendes, director of the Murphy Center for Entrepreneurship at UNT, said the course will begin this summer.

Students from various disciplines, including business, emergency management, engineering, public policy and others, can look into possibly creating phone applications that could be developed for early warning.

“We will not only be looking at the unique technology we have, but how does the community benefit from it,” he said.

Through the summer course, students will be able to travel to the Fort Worth Emergency Management Center and other locations.

The CASA radar is a collaborative project among several universities and governmental organizations including the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, the National Weather Service Office of Science and Technology, the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council and the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will be the first urban test site for the radar work. A total of eight radars will be available around the area by the storm season in 2014, Abbe said.

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878 and via Twitter at @KarinaFRamirez.

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