Doppler03.jpg
Seattle Storm mascot "Doppler" approves.
Weather forecasting in notoriously tricky-to-predict Washington state just got a bit easier this week with the launch of a new,

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Washington State Gets Its Very Own Coastal Doppler Radar System

Doppler03.jpg
Seattle Storm mascot "Doppler" approves.
Weather forecasting in notoriously tricky-to-predict Washington state just got a bit easier this week with the launch of a new, state-of-the-art coastal Doppler radar system.

Kudos can be sent to Sen. Maria Cantwell, c/o local weather savant Cliff Mass.

Mass, who had fought for the system for nearly 20 years, explains to Seattle Weekly the geeky intricacies of the new radar's technology, which includes a first-in-the-nation capability called dual-polarization, which will apparently help differentiate between precipitation types and help get readings despite mountain interference.

"You go to the doctor; one approach the doctor has is to look at the outside of you and try and figure out what's going on. The alternative is a CAT scan, where he can see all the organs and know what's going on. This system is like a CAT scan."

The new radar system was made possible through nearly $10 million in federal funding, secured by Sen. Maria Cantwell--though the system the state ended up getting is a used one that only cost about $3 million.

The Senator's office released this statement today:

"With Washington state's first coastal Doppler radar now online for testing, we are on the final home stretch to improved detection and monitoring of storms over southwest Washington," said Senator Cantwell. "Too often in the past, our weather radar coverage gap meant that forecasters didn't have the most complete data set possible to help Pacific Northwest communities prepare for big storms. This new, state-of-the-art radar technology will enable Washingtonians to better prepare for the impact of the big Pacific storms on businesses and homes."

Here's a comparative look at the new radar's graphics versus the only other Doppler system in Washington state, which is located on Camano Island.

Old lame-o system:

doppler02.jpg

New fancy-pants system:

doppler01.jpg

Besides looking better, the new radar is able to pick out precipitation (compare readings over the Sound) that the older Camano Island system can't.

So how was the state able to land this fancy new system? Mass says it has to do with some well-paced politicians. "Consider this," Mass says. "Sen. Cantwell was chair of the committee that oversees NOAA. Gary Locke became head of the Department of Commerce; and the head of NOAA is from Oregon. Our region was extraordinarily placed to get this technology."

Bottom line: Come Sept. 30 when the new radar is fully operational, local weatherpeople will never get a forecast wrong again.

Actually, they will still get forecasts wrong. But according to Mass there is no doubt that the new radar "will improve forecasting."

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