December 17, 2009

The Coastal Radar is Real!

Today, President Obama signed the 2010 Appropriation Bill with 7 million dollars for a coastal radar for the central Washington Coast. That plus the funds already made available in the stimulus funding earlier this year (2 million dollars) will completely fund all costs for purchasing and installing a high-powered, state-of-the-art radar that will greatly improve our ability to see weather systems approaching our state. It will allow us to clearly determine the amount of precipitation falling on the southwest side of the Olympics and over the mountains of SW Washington. Its view will extend to the entrance of the Strait of Juan De Fuca and the Columbia River. By defining the weather coming in from the west, it will result in improved prediction over the entire state.

A great deal of credit is owed to Senator Maria Cantwell, who did the heavy lifting in securing the funding for this critical piece of meteorological infrastructure. And the rest of our state delegation was highly supportive. Her press release is found at:

Using the earlier stimulus funding, a National Weather Service site survey team has been hard at work evaluating potential sites, and a public report is due very soon, with three possible sites. I have seen draft documents and the locations look very good.

The radar will be a powerful "S-band" radar like the Camano Island radar, but it will be a modern device that has the polarization option that will be added to the current radars. This option allows much better determination of precipitation rate and the type of precipitation. The radar will become part of the National Weather Service network, and many of hope its configuration will be optimized for use in our area. That includes zero degree elevation angle scans to see further and up and down scans (RHI scans) to provide more information of atmospheric structure and freezing level.

The current timelines for the radar is for installation in late 2012. A number of us believe that a more aggressive schedule would allow the radar to be installed 6 months to a year earlier.

This is a major advance for my profession and the safety/protection of our region.

For more information, check out my coastal weather radar web page:


  1. This is great news. Kudos to M. Cantwell.

    Who makes these radars?

    Honeywell, GE? I'd be curious to know. They are truly magnificient.

  2. BRAVO!!!! Congrats on a well fought campiagn :)

  3. Very awesome news, Cliff! Watching you now on KCTS9 - very interesting and informative!

  4. I am so thrilled! Congratulations on a successful effort... and for once, a WISE use of taxpayer money!!

    I will sent Maria Cantwell e-mail thanking her for her work; I certainly sent her enough to get her to help fund the thing (six, over two years). :-)

  5. good job cliff
    You did well.

    Very nice

  6. It also means jobs for a very economically depressed area... at least jobs to build it.

  7. Cliff, many congrats on being a (THE) champion for this absolutely necessary development. Now we will know what's coming our way, what a concept! Please do keep us up to date on the project, would love to see it all come together.

  8. my thought as well is that this will bring a few technical jobs to an area that really needs it.

  9. I heard this on my way home last night and was really pleased to hear it! Kudos to you for your advocacy of this project, and congratulations on its becoming a reality!

  10. Congrats and thanks Cliff. Can't wait to see the improvements in our winter storm forecasts with this in place. Are there bottles of chamgagne being popped at the NWS offices?

    I'm a Seattleite, but in Philadelphia visiting family right now and awaiting the arrival of a Nor'Easter tomorrow morning. These are our big snow makers and it looks like we will get 4-8in by Sunday morning.

    For those of you who want to live vicariously check out the NWS forecaster discussion here,

    and Jeff Masters' blog here,

    It's interesting that they are still seeing some model disagreement with the storm less than 24 hours out. A more E and S track of the storm will ensure no warm air intrusion but will cut down on quantitative precip for most of the area. While a more N and W track will cover a larger area with precip but will raise the chance of a snow mixing with rain.

    I lived for these storms as a kid and everytime I return to visit I hope for one. Looks like Christmas may come early this year.

    Happy Holidays

  11. Congratulations!
    I live in Victoria, BC, but believe the central WA coastal radar would benefit us hobbyist weather observers up here as well. Now, if they could only move up the installation schedule.
    Really glad to see the persistence has paid off.

  12. And credit is due to you Cliff Mass for pushing this forward to a successful conclusion. We will all benefit greatly with this technology available and this is a tremendous victory!!!
    Sooner the better to get it in place and functioning...
    Thank you Cliff Mass, Sen. Cantwell and all others who assisted.

  13. Great news!

    Our weather may be pretty ho hum, but geez, Washington, DC is about to get HAMMERED by a storm of historic proportions, may end up in the top 5, maybe even 3, snow storms of all time back there.

  14. Congratulations Dr Mass! I forsee the new data really boosting the WRF model...but please stay on top of the location,(my fear is that politics will get in the way & the new radar will end up east of the Cascades...).

  15. Cliff, also thanks to you for your work in getting this accomplished.

  16. Thank you cliff and Senator Cantwell and all those who participated. This will truelly be the final piece to the weather puzzle.

    Who or what group decides the location?

  17. Thank you cliff! We look forward to the day when we are not a "blank spot" on the weather map.

    Moclips, WA


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