New Weather Radar Could be a Game-Changer for the State

A weather radar system purchased by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia could lead to improved weather forecasting in North Georgia – and provide both expanded educational opportunities for students and enhanced research capabilities for the two institutions.

Researchers John Trostel and Marshall Shepherd in SSRC
Researchers John Trostel (GTRI) and Marshall Shepherd (University of Georgia) will be using the new weather radar to provide better information about north Georgia weather - and for research and education at Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. (Credit: Sean McNeil, GTRI)

 

“The radar would be used collaboratively to provide enhanced warning for people in North Georgia, to provide educational opportunities to students at both institutions, and to provide research opportunities for UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program, Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) Severe Storms Research Center (SSRC), and Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering,” said John Trostel, the SSRC’s director.

Researcher John Trostel with new weather radar
John Trostel, director of GTRI's Severe Storms Research Center, with the new weather radar atop a GTRI building. (Credit: Sean McNeil, GTRI)

 

Severe weather is a consistent threat to North Georgia that can lead to loss of life and property. The new radar system will fill a well-known gap in radar coverage over northeastern Georgia caused by the existing NEXRAD network coverage and terrain. A large landfill also causes blockage of the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) beam located near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Watch a video about this project on YouTube

A feed from the commercial Furuno WR-2100 radar, which will be located in Gwinnett County, will be shared with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Peachtree City, Georgia, and with other interested organizations. Beyond tornadoes and other severe storms, the radar could help forecasters predict winter precipitation and provide better rainfall estimates for flood warnings.

Feed from weather radar shows rain Atlanta area
A feed from the new weather radar shows rain passing through the north Georgia area.

 

“The acquisition of this radar is a game-changer for our state,” said Marshall Shepherd, director of UGA’s Atmospheric Sciences Program. “Not only does it provide a potentially lifesaving service for Georgians, but it is also a unique teaching and research tool for students at both institutions.” The radar will enable new research opportunities related to severe weather observations, winter weather forecasting, urban flood assessment, birds, and even insects, Shepherd said.

John Knox, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor in the UGA Department of Geography, also envisions the radar information serving the public in another way. The student-run digital meteorology program at UGA, “WeatherDawgs,” serves over 70,000 followers across north Georgia.

“The radar would allow UGA students to learn how to view, interpret, and use X-band radar data as well as how best to communicate it to the public,” Knox said.

Jessica Losego, a research scientist at the SSRC, said the new device will support the long-term goals of the Center and expand weather-forecasting collaboration.

“This is a unique opportunity for collaboration, and we look forward to working with UGA and the NWS to maximize this radar’s utility for research, education, and operations,” Losego said. “This equipment will support our efforts to understand the evolution and dynamics of severe storms in Georgia and lead to better capabilities for tracking these storms.”

Trostel and colleagues at GTRI became aware of the radar’s availability and reached out to UGA colleagues about collaborating on the acquisition. The three-year-old device, which operates in the X-band, had been used at the manufacturer’s research facility.

The weather radar cost approximately $150,000 and was acquired through donations and internal funding at UGA and Georgia Tech. Shepherd and Tom Mote, the founding director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program at the University of Georgia and an associate dean in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, contributed funds from institutional research budgets. A significant financial gift was also acquired from Elaine Neil, a longtime donor in the UGA Department of Geography, which houses the Atmospheric Sciences Program.

At Georgia Tech, funds were provided by GTRI’s Sensors and Electromagnetic Applications Laboratory and the Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory, the Georgia Tech Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, and Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering.

A 1998 tornado that stuck Gainesville led to the appointment of a task force to study steps that could be taken to protect citizens from future severe weather. Among its recommendations were the addition of a “gap-filling” radar for northeastern Georgia. Once it is placed in Gwinnett County after testing at GTRI, the new Georgia Tech-UGA radar will help to address that decades-old recommendation.

 

GTRI Communications

Georgia Tech Research Institute

Atlanta, Georgia USA

 

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About GTRI: The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) is the nonprofit, applied research division of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Founded in 1934 as the Engineering Experiment Station, GTRI has grown to more than 2,800 employees, supporting eight laboratories in over 20 locations around the country and performing more than $700 million of problem-solving research annually for government and industry. GTRI's renowned researchers combine science, engineering, economics, policy, and technical expertise to solve complex problems for the U.S. federal government, the state, and industry. For more information, please visit www.gtri.gatech.edu.

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