Sunday, October 23, 2011

Getting to Know the DOW

Being a meteorologist isn't just a job, it's an adventure, and we had one this weekend as we got to know the Center for Severe Weather Research Doppler on Wheels (DOW) Radar.

First, we had the pleasure of watching heads spin as we drove it through campus and downtown Salt Lake City.  As can be seen below, the DOW is something that seems to be right out of science fiction and we got more attention than a Jennifer Aniston siting during the Sundance Film Festival.

With no precipitation in sight, we set up the DOW in an area where we hope to observe lake-effect precipitation in the future to see what sorts of ground clutter we were dealing with.  

Ground clutter is radar returned produced by the Earth's surface and other ground-based obstacles, such as telephone and power poles, trees, houses, etc.  You don't want alot of that stuff in the way as it makes it more difficult to get good observations of precipitation.  Based on our recon, the site above appears to be great for looking at lake-effect bands that extend into the eastern Salt Lake Valley and Davis County.  

The beauty of the DOW is that it is user configurable and we can have it scan pretty much any way we want.  Further, although most people are aware of the use of radar to examine precipitation systems, the DOW is sensitive enough that we get some pretty interesting information on airflows even when the air is clear.  It didn't take long on Saturday for the students to start slicing and dicing the morning drainage flow from the Salt Lake Valley out over the Great Salt Lake and the outflow from Weber Canyon.

I took a quick snapshot of this vertically oriented scan taken towards the Great Salt Lake showing a shallow layer of offshore flow (purple) and oppositely directed return flow aloft (yellows).  

We are hopeful based on this data that we may be able to use the DOW to examine slope, valley, and lake driven flows during periods where Mother Nature is not cooperating and keeping us dry.

We also tried to have some fun identifying flocks of birds on the radar.  I'm not sure we were successful, but if anyone knows a good ornithologist in Salt Lake, have them give me a call.

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