NEWPORT | By going offline for a few days, the National Weather Service office in Newport will be bringing its weather radar back later this week better equipped for service over the next 15 years.
A radar outage began Monday and is expected to continue through at least Wednesday as an upgrade is performed on the Weather Surveillance Radar (WSR-88D). During this time, radar coverage will be available from adjacent radar sites in Wilmington, Raleigh and Wakefield, Va.
With the winter storm past the area and a warmer, clearer forecast for the rest of the week, they decided to move ahead with the planned upgrade, said Rich Bandy, meteorologist-in-charge with the NWS office in Newport.
“The crew got here (Monday) morning. They were coming from Oklahoma, but their travels weren’t affected by the winter weather,” Bandy said.
During the outage, the crew will install a new signal processor, which replaces obsolete technology, improves processing speed and data quality and provides additional functionality.
Bandy said the work being done this week is one of four major upgrades to extend the service life of the WSR-88D radar.
Bandy said the upgrade won’t provide new information as far as what data they get from the radar, but is updating the “guts” of the 20-year-old radars and to keep them operational.
“The original system was designed in the 1980s and these upgrades are to extend the service life of the radar into the 2030s,” Bandy said.
The National Weather Service office opened in 1994 and the WSR-88D has been in use at the facility since that time with an upgrade several years ago to add dual polarization technology, which did increase the type of information received by radar.
The four upgrades are planned over the next five years for all WSR-88Ds, which is used in NWS offices across the country. The other service life extension project include refurbishing the transmitter, pedestal and equipment shelters.
The $150 million investment is being made by the three organizations that use these radars, the NOAA National Weather Service, U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration.