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NWS Pittsburgh WSR-88D Radar to Receive Dual Polarization Upgrade

June 27, 2011 Press release

Public Information Statement

Picture of radar dome

From July 6th-July 16th 2011, the Doppler radar at National Weather Service Pittsburgh will get an important upgrade to incorporate new technology. What is it? It's called dual-polarization or "dual-pol." The Pittsburgh office is a beta test site for this new technology, one of the first in the nation! This is all part of the upgrade to dual-pol for all radars across the entire National Weather Service network.

The new dual-pol technology will result in 14 new radar products. This will be very beneficial to our forecasts, watches and warnings. It will help us to continue providing our suite of high quality products and services to the people of western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, northern West Virginia, and western Maryland!

It is important to note that during the 2-week installation process, our radar will be offline. Neighboring National Weather Service Doppler radars in Cleveland, OH, Wilmington, OH, Charleston, WV, Sterling, VA and State College, PA will be used to closely monitor our area.


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 graph 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 graph 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).

Non-Polarized radar picture 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.

Dual-Pol radar picture 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

Local Climate Water & Weather Topics:
Current Hazards, Current Conditions, Radar, Satellite, Climate, StormReady, Contact Us


National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office Pittsburgh
192 Shafer Road
Moon Township, PA 15108
Main Office (412) 262-1591
Recording (412) 262-2170
Webmaster's Email: pit-comments@noaa.gov
Page modified 6/21/2011
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