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March 23, 2015

CASA radar tracks tornadoes down the street and up to the minute, literally!

Smaller, smarter and faster radar systems could save lives, money when severe weather strikes

A new generation of smaller, highly capable radar systems in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is able to track with more accuracy the location of tornadoes and other severe weather conditions, such as heavy rain and ice storms, compared to other systems. These new systems are spaced much closer together than current radar sensors, which are typically 100 to 200 miles apart. The closer proximity is part of the reason the new systems can catch a tornado that could be missed by current radar.

With support from a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center award, the new technology was developed over 10 years by a multidisciplinary group of engineers and scientists at the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). The center is led by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with core partners Colorado State University, University of Oklahoma, University of Puerto Rico, and University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.

"Installing a system in Dallas/Fort Worth allows us to demonstrate the benefits of the system for urban flash flooding response," says V. Chandrasekar, CASA deputy director and a professor at Colorado State University.

Additional NSF support from an Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) award has successfully helped bridge the gap between deployment and long-term support from public-private partnerships. The AIR award is led by the University of Massachusetts, with Colorado State University, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, Arlington, and University of North Texas. The public-private partnerships involve commitments from local cities, businesses, educational institutions and others that chip in to pay for the installation and operation of the new radars, including, so far, the North Central Texas Council of Governments; the Fort Worth Department of Public Works; the University of Texas, Arlington, and University of North Texas; the National Weather Service; and technology companies EWR Weather Radar, Ridgeline Instruments, and Paroscientific, Inc.

The city of Midlothian, Texas, brought together local businesses and services to fund installation of CASA radar in that community. Additional radars have been installed by the city of Addison and Johnson County. A Fort Worth radar installation is planned for spring.

The research in this episode is supported by NSF award #0313747 , Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA), and award #1237767, PFI-AIR: CASA Warning System Innovation Institute. PFI-AIR stands for Partnerships for Innovation-Accelerating Innovation Research.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.