When springtime storms strike North Texas, local forecasters will have new technology in their arsenal to help predict where severe weather will strike and respond faster when it does.
A radar system called CASA, Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, will provide more specific and timelier weather readings that emergency management and meteorology officials hope to use to better prepare residents.
The first of four white domed radar units planned for the area was mounted last fall to Carlisle Hall on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington with another expected to be installed at the University of North Texas in Denton on April 2. Two more are planned for Fort Worth and Addison in June.
By the end of the year, a total of eight of the advanced radars could be online, forming an urban network.
The overall 10-year, $40 million project is funded through the National Science Foundation.
A group of universities, government agencies and industry partners make up the effort, which is being led bythe University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Colorado State University and the University of Oklahoma also are involved with the work.
In North Texas, CASA project officials are working with the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The CASA radar provides new data every minute compared with every five to six minutes with existing systems like NEXRAD, the radar system used by the National Weather Service.
The new system also focuses on a more precise area closer to the ground which provides forecasters detailed information to better monitor and track storms and precipitation in specific areas, like major streets and intersections.
The technology will be used both in predicting severe weather and in helping local emergency responders to more quickly aid areas once they have been hit by severe storms.
UTA engineering researchers who work in hydrometeorology hope to use the radar to collect rainfall, drainage and flash flood data to determine potential flooding trouble spots.
Brenda Philips, deputy director of the CASA project, said that in densely populated areas like Dallas-Fort Worth, having real-time weather data can be invaluable.
“This technology can be vital to early warning,” she said.
The UTA site currently is generating some data that already is being examined by the National Weather Service.
But the strength of the program will come once the network of several radars begin to work together, said Greg Patrick, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
“This will provide about four times better resolution than we have now,” he said.
Patrick said local residents should keep an eye on the skies this time of year and utilize technology already available online and through smart phone apps to monitor severe weather outbreaks.
“There are a lot of tools available to help keep us safe,” he said. “Have a way to get weather information and alerts and think about your plan beforehand.”