Virtual Office Tour - Doppler Radar

Of course, the primary mission of this or any NWS office is to save lives and minimize property damage by issuing accurate warnings and forecasts. In order to be able to do that, forecasters need to start out on the right foot. We need to have an accurate representation of the atmosphere as it exists right now, before we can try to predict its state at some point in the future. Many tools have been developed over the years to help measure various qualities of the atmosphere both at ground level and aloft. Over the next few tour stops, we will discuss a few of the most important tools we use to observe the atmosphere.

Just about everyone has heard of Doppler radar by now. It remains one of the most critical observing tools forecasters have at their disposal. WSR-88D is what we call our Doppler radars in the NWS. The term WSR-88D is simple to explain: WSR is Weather Surveillance Radar; 88 is the year the first WSR-88D was commissioned for use (1988); and the D means it is a Doppler radar. In a cooperative effort with the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration, the NWS has deployed about 155 Doppler radars nationwide. Through an integrated network spanning the entire United States and its island territories, from Guam to Puerto Rico, the WSR-88D has dramatically enhanced our ability to safeguard life, property and commerce. In addition to the Doppler radar located in Tallahassee, forecasters at this office routinely access the Department of Defense Doppler radars at Eglin AFB (KEVX) in the western Florida Panhandle, Fort Rucker (KEOX) in Southeast Alabama, and Moody AFB (KVAX) in South Central Georgia. Recent imagery from these four local radars can be obtained by clicking here.

Photograph of the Radar Data Acquisition unit of the NWS Doppler radar that serves Tallahassee. Our radar requires three integral parts to work: (1) an antenna/receiver, (2) computers that process the raw radar data, and (3) an interactive workstation that the forecasters can use to display the processed radar data. We'll talk about the last components a bit later. NWS calls the antenna/receiver portion of the radar system the Radar Data Acquisition (RDA) unit. While many NWS offices are collocated with their RDA, that is not the case in Tallahassee. Our RDA (pictured at left) is located on Capital Circle SW, about a mile east of the Tallahassee Regional Airport. The radar dish is protected by a covering that resembles a giant soccer ball. The transmitter at the antenna within this protective dome sends out a pulse of energy. When this energy hits an object, like a raindrop, it is scattered in all directions. Part of the energy will be reflected back to the antenna, where the dish focuses the returned energy.

Photograph of the Master System Control Function workstation of the Tallahassee and Ft. Rucker Doppler radars.

The data collected by the RDA, called base data, is sent from the RDA site to the processing computer located here in the office. The processing computer, known as the Radar Product Generator (RPG), performs various data quality checks of the raw radar data and creates the radar images and products that forecasters then interrogate. The RDA and RPG units are both controlled by a Master System Control Function (MSCF) workstation located in the operations area at the forecast office. Our office not only controls the Tallahassee radar, but also the one at Ft. Rucker, AL. Both MSCFs are pictured above. The latest base reflectivity image from the Tallahassee radar is included in the link below. By clicking on the link, you will go to an interface that allows you to loop the radar, select a different type of radar product, or look at imagery from a neighboring radar.


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