Wednesday, November 1, 2017

DOW Arrives at the U!

The Center for Severe Weather Research Doppler on Wheels arrived on the University of Utah campus early last night for this month's Outreach and Radar Education in Orography (OREO) field campaign.

The visit of the DOW, made possible by the National Science Foundation and Center for Severe Weather Research, will give University of Utah students a hands-on education in radar operations and interpretation, mountain and lake-effect precipitation processes, and the use of mobile observing platforms for field research.

We will exhibit the DOW at the Natural History Museum of Utah this Saturday, November 4, as part of their "Behind the Scenes" Weekend.  This is the best opportunity for the general public to check out this unique weather instrument.

My students have been working the past couple of weeks on plans to deploy the DOW for field research in northern Utah.  They plan to focus on five areas:

  1. The spillover of orographic (i.e., mountain enhanced) precipitation into the lee of a mountain barrier.  This work will concentrate on the northern Wasatch near Huntsville and the southern Wasatch near Heber.  
  2. Multirange effects.  This work will examine how upstream ranges affect precipitation on downstream topography, such as the Oquirrh Mountains affecting the Wasatch.  A number of possibilities exist depending on the flow dynamics.  
  3. Lake effect.  Always of interest, but one never knows if this fickle phenomenon will show its face.  We'll see if Mother Nature cooperates.
  4. Front-Mountain interactions.  What happens on small scales when a front plows into a mountain?  The students hope to find out.
  5. Polarimetric adventures.  The DOW is a polarimetric radar, which means that it transmits and receives radar horizontally and vertically polarized radar signals (this capability now also exists in National Weather Service radars).  Such information can be used in a number of ways, including to characterize the types of particles in precipitating clouds and to improve radar estimates of precipitation rate. 
This week focuses on training some of the students in DOW operations.  It's not quite as easy as piloting the Starship Enterprise and one also needs to learn how to configure the scanning strategies of the radar in an effective way to address key scientific objectives.  Our currently benign, warm weather is actually perfect for such training.  

After Saturday's exhibit, we will be using the DOW for a variety of teaching endeavors, both near campus and at sites across northern Utah to address the areas above.  Much depends on the weather and the teaching requirements.  Stay tuned to this blog for updates.


  1. How cool for you and your students!

  2. Determining the flow regimes where the Oquirrhs and/or Stansburys enhance or weaken Wasatch precipitation would be super interesting. Are you going to deploy in Tooele or Skull Valley? I hope you guys figure it out!

  3. Another interesting area is the northern portion of Utah County during southerly component winds, where some of the low level air mass gets lifted over the high terrain between Lone Peak and Snowbird. How do the orographics behave in that area? Just in case you guys suddenly run out of ideas. (:

    1. We've scouted spots for that and looking at Timpanogos before. It's not out of the realm of possibility, but not a priority this time. Good cap cloud in that area today, although it's too shallow and wimpy for us to see much.