NWS Duluth office upgrades radar tower

By KBJR News 1

July 6, 2014 Updated Jul 6, 2014 at 11:18 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The National Weather Service Duluth Office just received a big upgrade to its radar system.
The new upgrade will allow meteorologists to take in more data, especially during a summer that's seeing some heavy storms.

You've probably seen the big white globe atop a tower on Highway 53. That globe is scanning our atmosphere for hundreds of miles, and the result of the data allows meteorologists to paint a picture of precipitation in the Northland.
A new upgrade to the tower in Duluth now allows meteorologists to see even more.

"We call it build 14, it's the 14th iteration of the WSR 88-D Commanding Control Software" said National Weather Service Meteorologist, Kevin Huyck.

That may not mean much to those who are not meteorologically educated, but for everyone who has ever seen a storm on radar, it means better data.

The new upgrade will allow meteorologists to see the earlier development of a thunderstorm by scanning the lower levels in the atmosphere.
An additional half degree tilt, which is the lowest tilt on the rotating mechanism, will help see the story of storm in better time.

"So we're able to see the evolution of low level storm features like tornadoes and mesocyclones with more updates than previously" said Huyck.

Before the upgrade, it would take three and a half to five minutes to do a full circle scan, but now that time is cut to a minute and a half to three minutes, and meteorologists are already noticing a difference.

"It's really nice having faster low level radar scans with this new upgrade, so we have more data when we're interrogating storms" said National Weather Service Meteorologist, Geoff Grochocinski.

The new update will also cut out a lot of the noise typically seen on the radar.

"The radar software goes through and bin by bin tries to analyze how much noise is in the data volume and then removing bins with the high amount of noise, which cleans up the radar picture" said Huyck.

Most importantly, the upgrade will allow the NWS Duluth office to put out more accurate warnings just in time for severe weather season.

Meteorologists with the N-W-S Duluth office say other offices in the region received the upgrade weeks before the Duluth office, and communicating with the other offices has helped them better understand the new technology.

Bryce Henry