Upgrade made to radar on Mt. Ashland to help forecasters

The radar on Mount Ashland got a software upgrade last week that will allow the radar to better scan more of Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Posted: Oct. 5, 2018 7:14 PM
Updated: Oct. 5, 2018 7:15 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Last week, the Medford National Weather Service completed a significant software upgrade of the radar on top of Mount Ashland at 7,536 feet in elevation. The upgrade allows meteorologist to now lower the radar beam by several degrees. This will help expand that radar's coverage over Southern Oregon and Northern California and in turn aid in our forecasts.

Before the upgrade, the beam was scanning all directions at .5 degrees and then it would scan up from there through the atmosphere. The issue with that was by the time the beam reached the coast or the eastern Basin….when you factor in the curvature of the Earth too…the beam was sampling too high up to see most rain and thunderstorms.
Now the new base scan of the radar beam can be lowered to as low as -.2 degrees.

This will allow us to scan lower in the atmosphere for those areas further out and see that rain heading for the coast or impacting the Basin. This is going to significantly increase the radar coverage across Southern Oregon and Northern California, especially, along the Coast, in the Basin and through more of Northern California too. The additional data will help us track rain and thunderstorms better. It will also help us better determine the strength and impacts of strong and severe thunderstorms.

“It’s always been possible, per say, but the benefits…it was a cost versus the benefit. Is it worth doing for a lot of things? In this case they decided that Medford was worth doing it because of our fire weather, because of our coastal coverage we don’t have. So we got to be able to test this,” says meteorologist Brian Nieuwenhuis from the Medford National Weather Service office. The National Weather Service will test the new radar beam angles through April. They’ll then decide on a new, lower base radar beam angle moving forward.

Mark your calendars for the StormWatch 12 Winter Weather Special next month on Wednesday, November 21st at 6:30 PM. The StormWatch 12 weather team will have much more on the potential positive impacts from this upgrade when it comes to forecasting rain, snow, severe weather. There will also be big impacts for fire season forecast to keep fire crews safe on the line. We’ll also talk about the tradeoffs that there are from having a lower radar beam scan.

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