February 23, 2009

The Coastal Radar

The KIRO newspecial tonight hit the radar issue hard. It really is time we get this done. Virtually all sectors of the community agree..from the environmentalists, to the timber industry, to fishers, to the Port of Gray's harbor, to meteorologists, and almost everyone in between. The expense, although significant--4-10 million--is dwarfed by the costs of a single major storm or the savings--both in safety and economic--that the radar would allow. This is key infrastructure and it is shovel ready. NOAA is being given $600 million for infrastructure enhancements...surely this project deserves support from that. Senator Cantwell and Murry are supportive. Gary Locke, who will head the Dept of Commerce, surely knows why this hardwae is needed.
If you want to help, please contact our Senators and your local congressmperson....asking them to make this happen this year. Ted Buehner, the Warning Coordination Meteorologists at the Seattle NWS office, made the case better than I could on the KIRO show....this radar will save lives and property. It is outrageous that the wettest, most storm coastal area of the continental U.S. is the only location without a coastal radar. And for those of you who love weather...imagine being able to see the details of storms as they approach the coast!


  1. Cliff, Does the crashed Global Warming Satellite hurt weather forecasting or observations? Would we have seen improvements or immediate benefits?

  2. I was a little surprised yesterday afternoon at the narrrowness of the rain band that came through in the afternoon. It wouldn't hurt my forecasts to know just how extensive the rain is under a frontal band. Without radar, it is guesswork. The rest of the country samples frontal systems with all sorts of hardware, profilers, radar, radiosondes.

    Pacific fronts are sampled only with Satellite imagery. I didn't see the show, might be repeating things here, but that is my perspective.

    Of course if it were up to me I'd have a hundred artificial islands in the Pacific along 40N doing upper air. One radar is the least they might do.

    I'm commenting as a meteorologist from home on my home PC, not as a NWS spokesman, which I am most certainly not.

  3. I don't think a coastal radar would really help much. It rained yesterday for a couple hours. So what? Why do we need to know more about the rain? It came, it went, it got nice again, no big deal. I don't see the point.

  4. Mike
    Think you can answer a side question?
    Why is this office (Seattle) issuing fire weather forecast all year long?

  5. Re: Anon @9:19am,

    The 'ignorance is bliss' attitude may be your motto but it is not the philosophy of most people in the transportation (ground/marine/aviation), power, education, first responder, etc. sectors. Improved forecasts/nowcasts, early warnings to coastal and metro communities, WA-DoT advisories, etc. could save millions of dollars and many lives.

  6. Hooray!

    I wasn't able to watch the TV special, but I'm glad they hit this issue.

    It was also covered on this local blog a couple of weeks ago:





  8. Cliff
    So ironic the Camano Is Doppler went down the day after the claim for its need on the show last night.

  9. For Josh (fire weather forecast). In the winter the forecast obviously isn't used for prescribed burning--at least I don't think it is used, takes an awful lot of fuel to get a pile going. Spring and fall, yes--and in summer it is used to gage the risk of wildfires and such.

    That forecast is considered a 'land management forecast' in the winter, for those folks who are actually out there, maybe forest service and parks.

    I'm not the authority on that--I haven't done fire weather forecasts since I worked in Wenatchee. That office closed, to save a few bucks I guess, and I got a job over here. If you have a specific inquiry you can always email the fire weather forecaster at the NWS in Seattle. Our send it to our webmaster, who actually is one of those guys (he just has to look at the emails that come in too).

    In the winter the forecast is more automated than the rest of the year. It is actually scrutinized by a fire weather forecaster in the dry season. This time of year those two guys have to work the aviation and marine shift along with the rest of the grunts.

    Further inquiries about how the NWS does things really need to go through the webmaster and he forwards them around the office. Don't want to use Cliff's blog for that stuff too much and I sure don't want to get in trouble with my boss for acting like a spokesman for NWS. I am here because I want to see the UW Probcast and such expand. The more tools we have, the better mets do in general...and we have a ways to go, our skill has improved a little in recent years but obviously we do not get a lot of the details right. For instance in fire weather (based on my own experience when doing the forecast out on forest fires) you can tell the crews what days are going to have dangerous fire behaviour, but it is very hard to give specific information other than upvalley upslope diurnal tendencies and such. Very tricky stuff and a little hairy at times. I do not miss those days as a forecaster. Nuff said.

  10. Thanks Mike
    I didn't know if it took more resources to submit a fire weather product as oppose to a land management product. I know this is Cliffs blog, but were you on the east side during the 30 mile incident?

  11. Sounds like Cliff was out on Camino Island last night!!! :)

  12. (OFF TOPIC for Josh)

    I left Wenatchee in 1996, so the only major oubreak of fires that I know about is the set of fires that included the Tyee in the Entiat area, the fire up around Blewett Pass and near Leavenworth, and up around Lake Wenatchee. And I only worked at the Entiat/Tyee fire.

    I had a PC on which I'd installed OS/2. I could download model data and run that presentation in a DOS window, and flick between other programs, I thought that was so great--and a big old trackball. Clunky but it worked. I even got on teevee for my 15 minutes of fame, King5 had me on there for a ten second shot with Satellite images looping on my PC.

    But that was my 15 minutes, well ten seconds of fame--and we are intruding on Cliff now. I am lurking over on AndyCottle's blog now, so you might go over there. Sorry Cliff! I'm outta here!

  13. Great job KIRO7 on the NEED for our coastal radar. The stimulus bill has adequate funding for this and some amount of those funds will be put towards a coastal radar. Everyone should email their representatives or congressmen/women. We need to make our voices heard and step up to the plate with this. Cliff has done such an immaculate job of spreading the word/cause. A coastal radar is no brainer, as it would save lives and help people prepare much quicker than otherwise imagined. It not only gives us a heads up on the direction of storms and their precipation intensity and locations of heavy bands, but also the details the exact, up-to-the minute, placements of the low and precise tracking of lows that pop up and sneak between areas often causing significant wind storms we get around here every 1-2 years, in where no one would predicted wind, yet it howled and huge waves crashed over the 520 floating. It's time to get ourselves a coastal radar!! Thanks Cliff.

  14. While a weather radar on the coast would be a nice thing to have it may not be the best investment of 4-10 million dollars to improve regional forecast skill. At best the warning benefit that would come from a radar is limited to a few hours and would not likely drive any wide scale action plan to lessen the impact of imminent severe weather. Just not enough lead time. I submit that much more effective investment might be to install a network of vertical wind and temperature profilers to feed models and improve skill 18 to 24 hours in advance of severe storms. These tools combined with improved satellite tools would have relevant value 365 days a year compared to a radar that is most useful only on a limited number of days. I know Cliff has great passion for this topic but feel it needs a much more objective emergency management driven plan to warrant this type of expenditure. Sorry Cliff.....

  15. "katrina like havoc bordering the flood plains" from KIRO weather special on the 2007 storm. Not even close. Nice little hype. Why not stop with the coastal radar. Lets park a Lockheed WP-3D Orion in at Boeing Field all winter. Still, I like the radar idea, don't get me wrong. 2007 storm was a bad one. But if we are going to compare our storms to katrina for the sake of a radar we got to be careful. Cliff you said your self that you have to be careful with the hype in the weather community. But I guess we got to take all the publicity we can get for a procurement. Thats how getting money from the feds works. Politics.


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