Key West radar gets upgrade

Doppler to be dual-pol radar

By Trent Aric - Meteorologist
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KEY WEST, Fla. - The National Weather Service began the dual-polarization upgrade on the Key West Doppler radar on Wednesday afternoon.  

Currently, Doppler radar transmits and receives only horizontally oriented radio wave pulses and therefore can only measure the horizontal dimension of a cloud.  The new dual-polarization, or dual-pol radar, will be able to measure both the horizontal and vertical dimension of a cloud because it can transmit and receive both horizontal and vertical pulses. 

This will allow meteorologists to get a better idea of the size, shape and type of precipitation showing up on the radar.

This upgrade to dual-pol will add 14 products to the data that is already available with the current radar and will help the National Weather Service to better protect life and property.

According to the NWS, some of the benefits of dual-pol radar include:
- Improved accuracy of precipitation estimates, leading to better flood detection
- Ability to tell the difference between heavy rain and hail
- Improved detection of non-meteorological echoes like ground clutter, chaff, birds, etc.
- Detection of aircraft icing conditions
- Identification of the melting layer

The radar, which is located on Boca Chica Key, is estimated to be out of service until January 29th.

During the upgrade, the National Weather Service in Key West will use the Doppler radars in Miami, Tampa and Melbourne for coverage.

By the end of 2012, all the WSR-88Ds across the country will be upgraded to this new technology (WSR-88D stands for Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler).  The Doppler radar at the National Weather Service forecast office in Miami is scheduled to be upgraded between January 30 and February 12.

If you want to learn more about the dual-polarization radar, you can read and take training courses online.

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