Meteorologists at the Dorval weather office will soon have more precise information with which to predict emerging severe weather, once sophisticated new radar equipment enters operation in July.
“They scan faster,” said Peter Leibiuk, the engineer implementing Canada’s $83 million program to build 20 modern weather radar sites.
Current radar takes ten minutes to complete a single sweep. The new radar will trim that interval to six minutes, permitting more timely weather warnings. The bottom line is protecting Canadians, he said.
“Minutes save lives,” Leibiuk told The Suburban. “Within a ten-minute scan interval, a tornado can be born an die and never be seen on the [current] radar.”
The new Doppler devices will also pinpoint whether particles are moving toward or away from the radar station.
“It’s a key tool in predicting severe weather, especially tornadoes,” he explained during a telephone interview from the Meteorological Service’s Toronto office. The radar station will relay the data to Dorval in real-time. “When [the radar data] hits Dorval, it goes to the forecasters and the public web sites almost immediately.”
The new radars are so keen-eyed that they can detect the difference between distinct types of particles in the atmosphere.
“The big breakthrough is dual polarization. Right now, radar tells forecasters their width. Soon, they will know their height, as well,” Leibiuk continued. “It can distinguish rain from hail and snow and even freezing rain. That will let meteorologists identify hailstorms and freezing rain more precisely—something that’s particularly important when the temperature hovers around 0°C and switches between snow and rain.”
Another advantage is that the new radar will be able to see right through heavy storms, something current radar cannot do.
“If you observed a large storm cell which poses a significant flood risk approach a city center with a radar that doesn’t have storm penetration power, you might not see another storm cell behind it that could add to the flash flood risk,” he said. “The new radar will provide a much better idea of how much water risks hitting the ground-so flood forecasts will greatly improve.”
As a bonus, the new radar-touted by its manufacturer, German contractor Selex ES, as 20 times as sensitive as its predecessor-will scan an area three times as large. They are also expected to save money by requiring less frequent repair.
“The old radars need to be maintained pretty much every two months,” Leibiuk concluded. “We’ve specified that the new radars have to be able to run six months between maintenance intervals.”
Construction is slated to start in April, adjacent to Transport Canada’s vehicle test facility in Blainville. Canada currently operates 31 weather radar sites across the country, which cover’s 95 percent of the population. It intends to add another site to serve the Lower Athabaska-Fort Mcmurray area of Alberta.