NSSL’s mobile radar team goes to the Olympics

NO-XP staff in Birch Bay
NSSL's Doug Forsyth and Bob Staples (CIMMS) get the NO-XP settled in Washington.

Researchers from NSSL’s Radar Research and Development Division are perfecting their radar relay handoff as they rotate through Birch Bay, Washington to operate the NOAA-Xband dual-POLarized (NO-XP) mobile radar in support of the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

NSSL was invited to use the NO-XP to participate in SNOW-V10, the Science and NOWcasting of Olympic Weather for Vancouver 2010 in support of nowcasting operations for the Cypress Mountain venue, where freestyle skiing, snowboard, and snowboard halfpipe competitions are taking place.  The NO-XP radar operates on a sensitive wavelength to detect smaller particles such as snow.  The dual-polarization capability provides valuable details on the size and shape of these particles.

The NO-XP radar is currently located in Birch Bay, Washington, with an unobstructed view to the northwest towards Cypress Mountain near Vancouver.  The team sends the radar data to forecasters via wireless internet in real time to identify the melting level and how it changes with time.  They also call attention to precipitation moving in from the west that may not be seen by the Canadian radar because of the mountains.

Researchers have their own team goal to accomplish – the want to understand the generation and evolution of snow and rain in mountainous terrain.

“Location and evolution of the melting zone is crucial and it can be mapped very well with a polarimetric radar.  Verification of the signatures can be made in this particular location because the Olympic forecasting team has instruments on much of the mountain, and at many heights and locations.  It will be a great comparison to improve verification and help understanding,” said Dusan Zrnic, part of the NSSL team.

The radar will remain in Birch Bay through the Paralympic Games set for March 12-21 2010.