Every weather enthusiast cannot help but be amazed at how radar technology has evolved over the last 30 years. From primitive, 6-color displays to 16-bit, 256 color displays in super resolution, with dual-polarization radar, we’ve come a very long way in radar technology! But those radars are aging, and getting a whole new radar system isn’t in the budget for now. But what is now arriving this summer and over the next 2-4 years to a radar near you, is yet another step forward.
The National Weather Service is now undergoing a radar renovation at each site called SLEP, an acronym for Service Life Extension Program. What we have now, radar-wise, is excellent, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. So, this program is designed to improve what we have now, and indeed, this is an improvement! Basically, think of this as a refurbishment.
Step 1: Replace the signal processor. These things date back to the 1990s, and they are slow! One of the delays in radar data going from the radar to your laptop is right here. Yes, the data is being processed on what is essentially a glorified Pentium 1 computer. But not any more! The replacement signal processor can handle the job with ease. This will be done at all sites by the end of July 2017.
Step 2 is transmitter refurbishment. This will result better accuracy of reflected echoes, amongst other things, and every cable gets to be replaced, since they are all getting old and brittle. This part started in 2015 and will finish in 2019, and will help reduce downtime. This takes about 3 days, plus a 24 hour evaluation period to make sure everything works right. As an example, the KLOT Chicago radar just got this done in the last two weeks of May, 2017.
Step 3: Pedestal refurbishment. They’re getting old: Atlanta’s broke down this spring! That’s what the radar rests on. If it fails, the radar could wobble or worse when scanning. All need to be rebuilt, and this will go on through 2020.
Finally, through 2022, the shelter buildings will be recaulked, painted and cleaned. Roofs will be replaced as well. Getting water into electronics is, well, not good to say the least!
When all of this is done, you’ll see higher reliability of the radars, with a somewhat more accurate display…especially when steps 1 and 2 are done. And it means better, more reliable data for our AllisonHouse subscribers. With many radars already refurbished in steps 1 and 2, I’m noticing that the delay it takes for data to reach my laptop through AllisonHouse from the radar is 2 seconds. When I started at AllisonHouse, that delay was 1-2 minutes! Thus, you are literally seeing the data as the NWS warning and weather forecasters are seeing it at exactly the same time, since they pull the feed from a commercial satellite, as we do. It’s part of our commitment to give you the data just as fast as we can get our hands on it, and we are doing just that!
If you would like to see high and super-resolution radar data without meaningful delay, check out our AllisonHouse Maps and data services we provide. And if you have any questions, contact our support department. We’re very happy to help and serve you!