Crumb Trail
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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Hurricane Isabel: 'Doppler on Wheels' to intercept eye

An interesting and timely article about weather research

"At close range the scans will observe fine-scale but potentially damaging storm features as small as 40 feet across, including wind streaks, gusts, and other structures. The DOWs are a collaborative effort between NCAR and the Boulder-based Center for Severe Weather Research. Wurman operates the vehicles through the CSWR, with support primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The newest of the radar systems, called the Rapid-DOW, sends out six radar beams simultaneously. By raking the sky six times faster than traditional single-beam radars, Rapid-DOW can visualize three-dimensional volumes in 5 to 10 seconds and observe boundary layer rolls, wind gusts, embedded tornadoes, and other phenomena as they evolve."


Back in Boulder, NCAR scientists are running the nation's future Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) model on NCAR's IBM Blue Sky supercomputer, testing the model's skill at predicting Isabel's intensity, structures, and track. Operating on a model grid with data points only 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) apart, Blue Sky hums with calculations all night as WRF zooms in on Isabel, bringing into focus the storm's internal structure, including eyewall and rain bands. The result is a high-precision, two-day forecast. In the morning, the model starts over to create a new five-day forecast using a 10-kilometer grid and updated conditions.

For the people in the path of Isabel she is a disaster, but for scientists it is a rare opportunity to gather data that can be used to test their weather models and improve them, perhaps to help people in future.

posted by back40 | 9/18/2003 11:04:00 AM


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