Western Illinois University's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Geographic Information Sciences has been installed Furuno Compact X band Weather Radar (Furuno Weather Radar) on campus to provide more accurate regional weather information, as well as added research and educational opportunities for students.
Prior to the installation, local weather information came from a radar that is a minimum of 70-80 miles from town. Because the radar beam had to travel so far, the image was typically only being read from the tops of local clouds.
Furuno Weather Radar help fill the gap in lower level, which rotates 360 degrees, will read about 70 kilometers, or 45 miles surrounding Macomb. It will give a much higher resolution radar image and will offer more detailed information to forecasters, including rainfall totals, possible rotation in clouds, hail formation and other weather features.
Improvement of weather data
Furuno Weather Radar helps with earlier weather detection and better rainfall rates. It can also look inside storm clouds to detect rotation, which the old equipment could not do. The new radar can also be controlled remotely so those involved with warning approaching storms do not have to come to campus to monitor the images.
WIU Associate Professor of Meteorology Marcus Büker said “This unit has two beams to access how big particles are in two ways, which will allow us to classify precipitation, such as whether it is rain, snow, or hail. This is the first time we will be able to differentiate."
Contribution for local community
WIU Meteorology Professor Redina Finch said Furuno Weather Radar’s imagery will soon be live-streamed on the web. That will allow the National Weather Service to access the weather data. That online information will also be available to emergency services personnel and residents throughout the region.
"We want this to be an easy-to-use community service," she said. "It will be beneficial to farmers, power companies, first responders, television stations and others."
"It allows for storms to be studied later," Büker said. "The images are very involved and the information the unit can provide can be lifesaving."
The hope is that the images can eventually be linked to a weather app, so live, local radar can be accessed on local residents' mobile devices.
WIU Meteorology Professor Redina Finch
Büker said the data produced by the Furuno Weather Radar will be invaluable in the University's classrooms.
Finch said "We have a graduate student creating a users' guide to the radar for the public so they will know how to use and interpret the data," Furuno Weather Radar
being used by students in meteorology classes, but also in emergency management, law enforcement and justice administration and broadcasting classrooms. Students will also be involved in radar image interpretation and maintaining the website where the radar images will be available.