ESRL Global Systems Division

FSL Troika's Vision for Operational Regional Radar Volume Now a Reality

The National Weather Service recently announced implementation of a project to electronically collect and distribute WSR-88D Level II data in real time. This is the highest spatial resolution data (reflectivity and radial velocity) that WSR-88D produces. This accomplishment has special meaning to the NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory. At a Troika meeting 12 years ago, FSL director Dr. Alexander MacDonald proposed building a real-time national radar volume of reflectivity and velocity data from the NEXRAD radar network. An investigation on the feasibility of collecting and combining these datasets, led by FSL meteorologist Woody Roberts, resulted in a plan for action. Driven by willpower and modest funding, the team deployed hand-me-down SPARC-II workstations to three sites (Denver, Cheyenne, and Goodland). FSL scientist Steve Albers developed Cartesian remapping software, which reduced the volume of data to fit bandwidth limitations at that time. Output from the collected data was combined and displayed on the three-dimensional display (D3D) workstation developed by computer scientists Phil McDonald and Paula McCaslin.

The NWS commissioned a broader working group (with Roberts as a member) to look further into centralizing the weather radar data. Using the Regional Radar Volume (RRV) network developed at FSL as a guide, the working group recommended a phased approach to collect base radar data from NWS radars, with full-resolution availability from all radars targeted for 2003. FSL merged its efforts with those of the National Severe Storms Laboratory and the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms at the University of Oklahoma to demonstrate sending full-resolution Level II data to a central server using the Internet2 and LDM software developed by Unidata. To expand the network, FSL's procurement specialist Bernie Metz found more PC hardware to support another three sites in Kansas and upgrade existing sites. By 2003, the CRAFT (Collaborative Radar Acquisition Field Test) network was collecting and distributing Level-II data from over half of the NWS radars in real time. Plans were then developed by NWS to move this demonstration into operations by late 2004. All of these efforts, along with those of others inside and outside FSL, contributed to a successful demonstration that has led to this important new operational capability. Though important work remains to fully exploit volumetric radar data, this milestone is a very important one to FSL and NWS. (For more information, see

Others at FSL played an important role in the RRV project, from development to operations: Bob Lipschutz, LDM and communications support; Mike Doney, communications hardware and networking expertise; Mike Vrencur and Randy Wood, system management support; Carol Werner, administrative support; and ITS operators, systems monitoring and fault/outage tracking during the demonstration. The Electronic Systems Analysts and Electronics Technicians at the three NWS sites also provided important onsite support.

Contact information
Name: Woody Roberts
Tel: 303-497-6104