Radar upgrade at La Crosse National Weather Service almost complete

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

It may not look any different, but it's what's inside that counts when it comes to the La Crosse national weather service radar. The radar is nearing the end of a major upgrade that meteorologists say will result in better severe weather warnings and forecasts. It's the first weather service radar to get the upgrade, which serves Western Wisconsin.

The new technology improving the National Weather Service radar in La Crosse will be able survey the sky in 3D.

NWS meteorologist Dan Baumgardt says the new dual polarization radar will be up and running by either Wednesday or Thursday. The weather service had a sneak peak this past Sunday.

"We have to run through a quality check of the data so we have to run it for 24 hours. So on Sunday we were able to see the storms out over Minneapolis and south of the cities, and look at some of the dual pol data for the first time," says Baumgardt.

Because dual pol gets a 3 dimensional look at what's in the clouds, it will do a better job of distinguishing between rain, sleet snow and hail. It will also see how large the raindrops are...improving rainfall rate and flooding forecasts.

"It’s been used over the southern part of the country quite a bit and one of the big findings we're finding are tornado debris signature that we're seeing. We're able to see the tornadoes when they're on the ground and have really good confidence that there's a tornado going on and hopefully we can get people to take better action if we're more confident in our warnings," explains Baumgardt.

La Crosse is the 48th radar out of 122 across the country to get the upgrade. Duluth and green bay will get their upgrade in May then the Twin Cities in the fall.

"All the weather service meteorologists are training on how to use the dual pol technology effectively to help our warning process. So they go through about 3 full days of training."

Baumgardt says the staff is excited to add this information to their arsenal of issuing the best warnings possible for the public. But, he says better warnings are only the half of it. "Our warnings are hopefully going to get better but it does nothing if people don’t take action."

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