A $25 million radar? That's on my wish list now that I've returned this week from the National Weather Association conference in Louisville, Kentucky. I learned a lot as both broadcast meteorologists and meteorologists from the National Weather Service and private sector all gathered to present the latest research and findings on all sorts of topics in the world of weather.
For instance, I learned about the latest research on a type of radar called "Phased Array Radar" (PAR) which for weather purposes is still being researched in Oklahoma. The traditional radar we use sweeps in a circle then tilts up a bit to sample another part of the storm/atmosphere and sweeps in a circle again. To make a complete sample takes 5 minutes. But a phased Array Radar can send out multiple beams at once, never tilting or sweeping, and thus can sample a storm in 30 to 60 seconds instead of 5 minutes. This could mean much better tornado and hail tracking capabilities. The price tag is steep though, it's about $25 million per radar. But just like HD TV's cost will go down over time and there's a chance that by 2020 or later the netowrk of National Weather Service Radars will be replaced by these phased array radars.
Here's a link to more on phased array radars, click here.
There was also some great discussions on the possibility of severe weather hitting a stadium during an event. We are all to familiar with that, after 80mph winds hit Busch Stadium during a game in 2006. A tornado did strike the Georgia Dome in Atlanta during a basketball game and this year a rotating storm that did not produce a tornado did set off the sirens at Wrigley Field during a ball game. In many stadiums there may be no storm shelter plan or it's written on paper but not activated when the time comes.
I think there are two paramount issues to be addressed; adequate warning time and where to put people. The people at the Georgia Dome didn't know there was a tornado warning, there was no announcement. It might help if these stadiums contracted out a private meteorologist to follow and forecast the specific storms that develop for the specific event.
And when a storm hits, where do people go? Some college football stadiums hold 100,000 plus fans, but the stadium was not designed to hold all those fans in the concourse area and in those stinky bathrooms-though that's a good spot if a storm hits in a hurry.
Each stadium and each event is different, but I'm encouraged that meteorologists are talking about the problem and are at the very least raising awareness.