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NWS Wilmington WSR-88D Radar Dual Polarization Upgrade

For regular updates on the installation process check our Free Text Message for the NWS Wilmington Radar.

In Early June 2012, the Doppler radar at the National Weather Service Wilmington office begins an exciting new era with the incorporation of dual-polarization or "dual-pol" technology.

This installation is all part of the upgrade to dual-pol for all 120+ radars across the entire National Weather Service network.

The new dual-pol technology has resulted in 14 new radar products. This is very beneficial to our forecasts, watches and warnings. It helps us to continue providing our suite of high quality products and services to the people of south eastern North Carolina and north eastern South Carolina!



What is Polarization?

A radio wave is a set of oscillating electric & magnetic fields, oriented 90 degrees to each other. Polarization of the wave is the direction, or orientation, of the electric field.

Horizontal Polarization

The electric field is oriented horizontally, along the x-axis (in blue). The magnetic field is oriented vertically, along the y-axis (in white).

Vertical Polarization

The electric field is oriented vertically, along the y-axis (in red). The magnetic field is oriented horizontally, along the x-axis (in white).

Current NWS Doppler Radars
(Non-Polarized)

Transmits and receives only horizontally polarized radio wave pulses. Therefore, they measure only the horizontal dimension of cloud and precipitation particles.

Polarimetric Radar
(Dual-Pol)

Transmit and receive both horizontally and vertically polarized radio wave pulses. Therefore, they measure the horizontal and vertical dimension of cloud and precipitation particles.





Why is Dual-Pol Better?

By comparing the power returned to the radar from both horizontal and vertical pulses in different ways, we can obtain information on the size, shape and ice density of cloud and precipitation particles.

What are the Benefits of Dual-Pol?

There are many! They include:

  • Better estimation of precipitation amounts (crucial in heavy rain/flooding events)
  • Improved detection and mitigation of non-weather echoes (ground clutter, chaff, anomalous propagation)
  • Melting layer identification, a.k.a. the "bright band" (very important to aviation)
  • Classification of precipitation type (rain, snow, hail, sleet)
  • New severe thunderstorm signatures (improved hail detection, updraft location)




Want to Learn More?

Check out these links to learn more about dual-pol technology:

Dual-Polarization Training for NWS Partners
(includes training for Non-NWS partners, and Non-Meteorologists too!)

National Severe Storms Laboratory Dual-Pol Page

National Severe Storms Laboratory Dual-Pol FAQ Page


National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Wilmington, NC
2015 Gardner Drive
Wilmington, NC 28405
(910) 762-4289

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