Tester announces new weather radar for western Montana

Missoula radar will improve storm prediction, help farmers and ranchers

(MISSOULA, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester today announced that a new and improved Doppler radar is now helping western Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and small business owners manage their businesses and grow Montana’s economy.

Tester said that the National Weather Service’s new dual polarization, or dual-pol, radar will provide meteorologists with better information about the atmosphere and enhance their ability to track storms. In the winter, the radar will help forecasters pinpoint where rain turns to snow, sleet or freezing rain, improving the accuracy and timeliness of winter storm and blizzard warnings.

Dual polarization radar uses both horizontal and vertical waves to provide a more accurate picture of weather conditions. Conventional Doppler radar only uses horizontal waves.

“The new radar is welcome news to farmers, ranchers, construction workers, firefighters, and all Montanans who rely on accurate weather forecasts to stay safe and do their jobs,” said Tester. “This smart investment in new technology will save lives and money by giving folks more time to react once bad weather has been spotted.”

The radar will be managed by the National Weather Service’s Forecast Office in Missoula that serves 390,000 people across western Montana. The National Weather Service has three other Doppler radars in the state — Great Falls, Billings and Glasgow — that are all being upgraded to dual-polarization.

“Dual-Pol will go a long ways in helping us better assess the intensity of precipitation and potential for flash flooding, especially in those very weather vulnerable locations of western Montana, where people traverse rugged recreation areas, such as Glacier National Park,” said Bruce Bauck, meteorologist-in-charge, Missoula forecast office. “In addition, Dual-Pol will be critical for assessing the potential for debris flows in severely burned wildfire areas.”

The nationwide upgrade to dual polarization radars is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation. Dual-pol radars also could save the nation about $700 million annually by reducing weather-related damages. For more about the new weather radar, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX6LH_l3P3Y.