The facililty now has an upgraded Doppler radar serving the region. The Dual-polarization, or "dual-pol" radar provides meteorologists with enhanced information about the atmosphere so that they can more accurately track, assess and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather.
The upgrade to dual-pol technology is the most significant enhancement made to the nation's NEXRAD radar network since Doppler radar was first installed in the early 1990s. The upgrade includes a hardware attachment which now sends and receives both horizontal and vertical pulses, and new software to process the information. The new radar will provide much more information about the size, shape, density, and intensity of the precipitation in the clouds.
The improvements at the NWS office were announced by Arkansas's senior U.S. Senator Mark Pryor. "As Arkansans know all too well, severe weather can often be dangerous and damaging," he said. "In an event like the 2011 floods, forecasters will be able to provide better information about the amount of rain coming down and issue more accurate and timely warnings to the public."
Another important benefit: dual-pol can also see small bits of debris kicked up by a tornado which gives forecasters the ability to confirm a tornado even in the dark. The new technology will also help detect hazards to aircraft, such as icing conditions and birds.
"Flooding has always been our most dangerous and costly weather hazard in the state," said Renee Fair, meteorologist-in-charge of the Little Rock forecast office. "The information we gather from the new dual polarization radar will allow forecasters to issue more accurate and timely warnings of flooding and flash flooding across the state."
The Little Rock forecast office serves more than 1.5 million people in 45 counties in Arkansas.
Businesses in the region will also benefit from the enhanced information dual-pol brings. People who work in the agriculture industry, utility companies, airlines, visitors to national parks, and others who rely on weather forecasts will have a clearer picture of current weather conditions and better information to protect their lives and livelihoods.
The nationwide upgrade to dual-pol is part of NOAA's effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation. Dual-pol radars also could save the nation about $700 million annually by reducing weather-related damages.
Click here for more information on dual polarization technology.