New Doppler Radar to Improve Weather Forecasts in Mid-Missouri

Mar 10, 2015

Doppler Radar in Central Illinois
Credit Dan / FLICKR

MU will install a dual-polarization Doppler radar as part of the five-year Missouri Transect project, which is funded by a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The new radar will improve the precision of weather forecasts for mid-Missouri residents.

John Walker, MU curators’ professor of biological sciences, is the principal investigator of the project. He said the project’s original goal was to answer the question of how climate change affects plant productivity, both in native ecosystems and agricultural systems. Walker said the dual-polarization radar will help answer this question by providing more complete data, closer to the ground. Unlike traditional Doppler radars, dual-polarization scans vertically as well as horizontally, proving a three-dimensional image of weather systems. 

“Once we collect that data, then it’s going to help us develop models so that we can better predict the weather in central Missouri going forward,” Walker said.

Currently, the National Weather Service operators Doppler radars in St. Louis and Kansas City. Neil Fox, MU associate professor of atmospheric science, said the radar should fill in the gap left in mid-Missouri to provide more accurate forecasts for this region.

“The main benefit will be this observation near the surface,” Fox said. “So we’re going to see what’s happening really close to the ground, which obviously when we’re interested in the rainfall, we want to see what’s hitting the ground.”

Fox said the forecasts will be particularly useful when dealing with severe weather such as tornadoes.

The radar will be installed at MU’s South Farm Research Center. Walker said the plan is to have it installed before the summer starts so data collection can began. The data collected will be information from the radar.

While some of the data will be collected by MU students, Walker said one of the project’s main goals is educational outreach, and a large part of that is training students and having scientists in multiple disciplines interacting. He said he hopes the radar will improve education for Missouri residents about the impact of climate change on their