NWS will touch up Doppler radar

NWS will touch up Doppler radar

BY PATRICIA DAUKANTAS | GCN STAFF

The premier Doppler radar system for tracking severe storms will get an upgraded data acquisition subsystem over the next few years.

The National Weather Service recently awarded RS Information Systems Inc. of McLean, Va., a four-year, $29 million contract to develop the Open Radar Data Acquisition (ORDA) system, a major component of the Next-Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD).

ORDA will control radar operations and collect basic data on precipitation intensity and storm winds, said Deirdre R. Jones, chief of the systems engineering center at NWS' Office of Science and Technology.

From 169 locations across the country, NEXRAD scans for storms and provides the familiar Doppler radar images to news media and other NWS customers. Twelve of the sites have redundant data acquisition subsystems, bringing to 184 the number of units to be upgraded, Jones said.

Outer limits

New computational methods have already pushed NEXRAD's existing hardware to its limits, said Bob Saffle, NEXRAD product improvement program lead for NWS.

'If you want to take advantage of more sophisticated processing techniques, you have to have the hardware to do it,' Saffle said.

ORDA is the second NEXRAD component to be upgraded from its original 1980s-era technology to an open-systems model, Jones said. The Open Radar Product Generator, another subsystem that processes raw radar data before sending it off to the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, is nearly complete.

The new data acquisition subsystem will use digital signal processing technology and will run under Unix, Jones said.

SI International Inc. of McLean, Va., is RS Information Systems' subcontractor on the data acquisition project, Jones said.

Mercury Computer Systems Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass., provided digital signal processing equipment, Saffle said. Sigmet Radar Data Systems of Westford, Mass., will serve as technical consultant.

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