A new generation of radar to be installed

11622An exciting change will be coming to our local National Weather Service office in March. A technology called Dual-Polarization radar will be installed at the NWS office in Romeoville. With current conventional radar, the beam is emitted in a single orientation towards the meteorological target (rain, snow, hail). This new generation of radar uses both a horizontal and a vertical emission of microwaves. This allows meteorologists to actually see the size and shape of the target we are looking at. While in college at Valparaiso University, I was able to see this first hand on our own experimental dual pole radar, and the benefits are certainly there all year long. In the summer, we will be able to see if a storm is dropping heavy rain, or if hail is embedded. Winter benefits are huge as well because with dual pole radar, it is possible to see if rain is freezing, and at what level. With Chicago’s new radar, this is just the start of a nationwide dual pole revolution that promises to help all meteorologists peer ever further into the storm!


Posted under technology

This post was written by qni_it on September 26, 2010

Firework Chemistry 101

fc-4fc-5Since some of us are still in the holiday spirit, I thought why not talk about fireworks. Now, this just goes to show you of how big of a science geek I am. Have you ever wonder what chemical makes the fireworks so colorful. Here is a list of chemicals that are added to make the fireworks so pretty.

Aluminum is used to make silver and white flames and sparks.
Antimony is used to make glitter effects.
Barium creates the color green.
Calcium salts produce orange fireworks.
Copper compounds produce the color blue.
Iron is used to make sparks. The temperature of the metal determines the color of the spark.
Lithium and Strontium salts create the color red to fireworks.
Magnesium burns a very bright white.
Potassium when added to a sparking metal will add a violet color to it.
Phosphorus can add a glow in the dark effect.
Sodium makes gold or yellow fireworks.
Titanium flakes add silver sparks.
Zinc is a bluish white metal that is added to create smoke effects.

So, if by any chance you have leftover fireworks, fire a few up this evening and check out what chemicals are in yours.


Posted under science, technology

This post was written by qni_it on July 5, 2010

What did we do before the radar was invented?

gfs_700_000mYesterday I was given the pleasure to give our Project Tornado presentation to Immanuel Lutheran School in Belvidere. I received many card with questions on them, and there were lots of  good questions . Camryn, who is a third grader there, asked me this question. How did they in the old days know what weather was coming without a radar?
To start, the radar is used as a helper to our forecast. They can show us the rain, thunderstorms or even snow coming our way. We use observational maps (see picture) to make our forecast. To take your question further… how did they forecast without weather balloons, or observation maps?
A long, long time ago, methods of forecasting relied on spotting patterns of weather events. For example, if they had a sunset that turned the sky red, then they would know that the next day would be nice. telegraphoperattorIt wasn’t until the invention of the telegraph in 1837 that the modern age of forecasting began. The telegraph helped the weather conditions be passed around from city to city. This allowed forecasts to be made by knowing what the weather was like further upwind.

Thanks again Camryn for the great question!


Posted under science, technology

This post was written by qni_it on May 4, 2010


tiros-1__9Yesterday my trivia question was about the first weather satellite launched into space. It happened April 1, 1960, 50 years ago. Therefore, I thought I would give you some more information about this satellite since it has changed the way we forecast dramatically.

TIROS (Television and Infrared Observation Satellite) was the first successful weather satellite and that was launched at 6:40 AM EST on April 1, 1960 from Cape Canaveral, FL. This satellite would take television footage from 435 miles in orbit of the earth’s surface. Though it was only in space/operational for 78 days, about 15 days then wanted. 691px-tiros_i_image_spac0102-repairIt was very useful sending back nearly 23,000 images of atmospheric conditions before having electrical failure in June 1960. The satellite was about 42 inches wide and 19 inches tall, which housed 2 television cameras making the total weight of the satellite around 270 pounds.

TIROS satellites continue with that name for 6 years until 1966, 10 satellites in all. Now it is better know as the NOAA ITOS (Improved TIROS Operational System).


Posted under science, technology

This post was written by qni_it on April 2, 2010

NOAA dispatches research plane to improve winter storm forecasts

NOAA’s Gulfstream IV aircraft, known for investigating Atlantic hurricanes, will begin flying over the North Pacific Ocean to fill gaps in atmospheric observations, which will enhance forecasts of winter storms for the entire North American continent through improved computer modeling.

The highly specialized twin turbofan jet will be stationed at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan through February before repositioning to Honolulu in March. From these locations, the aircraft will be tasked by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction — a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service — to fly into data sparse regions to collect information such as wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature and humidity. This data will be sent via satellite to global operational weather forecasting centers — and fed into sophisticated computer forecast models.

“These flights will help us better observe and understand the current state of the atmosphere over the Pacific, where most of North America’s weather originates, in order to better predict future conditions across the U.S. and Canada three to six days in advance,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction in Camp Springs, Md.

These computer model improvements will play an essential role in meteorological support for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in addition to more precise precipitation forecasts along the U.S. West Coast and points further east.

NOAA incorporated the Japan-based missions into its annual Winter Storms Reconnaissance program in early 2009 — flying 332 flight hours and logging miles equivalent to circling the Earth five times. Prior to 2009, missions were flown from Alaska, Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast. By expanding the reach across the International Date Line to Japan, NOAA is essentially pushing farther upstream to observe areas of interest with greater lead times.

These missions showed significant positive impact to global numerical weather prediction models, increasing both accuracy and lead times for high-impact weather events. For example, model forecasts of precipitation amounts improved, on average, 10 to 15 percent.

The high altitude, high speed NOAA Gulfstream IV is based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit http://www.noaa.gov.


Posted under technology

This post was written by qni_it on January 12, 2010