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The weather radar revealed

By 21 May 2012 35

weather radar

Here’s a picture of the Canberra Region weather radar operated by the Bureau of Meteorology. I thought this might be of interest to a few people. The radar is located in the Tallaganda State Forest south east of Canberra. It’s something that most people I know use all the time, but nobody has ever seen.

For those who like to get their geek on, it’s a WSR-74S. WSR stands for “Weather Surveillance Radar”, the “74″ indicates the year the first system was produced and the “S” suffix indicates that it operates at S-band in the RF spectrum, which is around 10cm wavelength or 3GHz frequency. The alternative WSR-74C operates at C-band.

These guys are pretty old, and Wikipedia tells me that they’ve mostly been replaced in the US by the WSR-88D.

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35 Responses to The weather radar revealed
#1
reepy4:30 pm, 21 May 12

Thanks for sharing. That is pretty cool and yes I did get my geek on and look it up :)

#2
Lyons754:34 pm, 21 May 12

We took a drive out there last winter, drove up the fire trail to it and it started to snow.. Very pretty, but very exposed site.

#3
Gungahlin Al4:48 pm, 21 May 12

I always wondered… Now I know. Thanks!

In Brisbane they also have wind doppler, which can produce pretty amazing pictures during storms. So perhaps it’s a newer setup.

#4
EvanJames5:06 pm, 21 May 12

Excellent! What road do you take to get to it?

#5
yellowsnow5:26 pm, 21 May 12

For the weather geek in me the impressive thing is that it’s located at the top of a ridge, around 1200-1300 m above sea level. Which is v high for a structure like this – it’s the highest of the BOM radar sites in Australia, and is arguably the most reliable with an uninterrupted view in all directions

#6
Ben_Dover5:34 pm, 21 May 12

Sounds neat! I should take a drive out there with my box brownie.

#7
EvanJames5:36 pm, 21 May 12

That’s a good picture, which road do you take to get to it? I have always wondered.

#8
dungfungus5:43 pm, 21 May 12

BOM still haven’t fixed the software to stop it showing the Gunning wind factory (why do they call them farms?) on days when it is generating.

#9
Deref5:55 pm, 21 May 12

Very cool – thanks!

But I thought it was a Captain’s Flat.

#10
Woody Mann-Caruso5:59 pm, 21 May 12

*girly squeal*

#11
Diggety7:07 pm, 21 May 12

Gungahlin Al said :

I always wondered… Now I know. Thanks!

In Brisbane they also have wind doppler, which can produce pretty amazing pictures during storms. So perhaps it’s a newer setup.

+1

Yes, doppler wind would be great for us storm enthusiasts. In the case of The Gap microburst storms of 2008 (keep watching through to the end), doppler wind images provided quite useful information for one of the most powerful electrical storms Brisbane had seen.

And you can see if your location is about to get hammered if the BoM updates are not frequent enough.

#12
Snarky7:43 pm, 21 May 12

Thanks LSWCHP, that’s interesting.

Not a weather geek myself, but going by your terminology explanation there, the replacement WSR-88D was first built in 1988, which isn’t really a great deal younger than a ’74. Has nothing improved in weather surveillance the last 24 years?

#13
Sandman8:31 pm, 21 May 12

Deref said :

Very cool – thanks!

But I thought it was a Captain’s Flat.

Where, on the bar at the CF pub?

Captains Flat is close enough to Tallaganda State Forest to allow it to be the postal address for the radar. If you type Tallaganda into the maps app on an I-device you’ll end up at a service station in Braidwood.

#14
molongloid8:56 pm, 21 May 12

BoM’s info on the fancy new Doppler ones: http://www.bom.gov.au/other/doppler/adelaide/index.shtml

#15
dvaey9:20 pm, 21 May 12

Deref said :

Very cool – thanks!

But I thought it was a Captain’s Flat.

Captain’s Flat Rd is the access road to the radar tower. The tower is approx 10km from Captain’s Flat.

#16
LSWCHP9:25 pm, 21 May 12

EvanJames said :

That’s a good picture, which road do you take to get to it? I have always wondered.

Head out to Captain’s Flat via Quangers. Continue on the Captain’s Flat road towards Braidwood for about 9km. You’ll end up at the crest of the Great Dividing Range, with a turnoff on the right which is the Cowangerong Fire Trail. There’s an information stand at the turnoff with a map and info about the forest flora and fauna. Follow the fire trail about 4.5 km, and there it is. I legged it, but it’s a pretty hefty climb, about the same is climbing Black Mountain from the lake. However, it’s an easy 4wd trip, or bouncy 2wd if you don’t care too much about your car. :-)

It’s the highest peak in the Range for a long way in any direction, which is why the radar is there. You can stand on the trail with the ground sloping away on both sides, with the Shoalhaven valley on one side and the Tinderry hills on the other side. Fantastic views and it’s absolutely peaceful…not a sound except for some birds chirping and the odd startled roo bouncing away through the scrub.

I can’t recommend it highly enough for a bit of a bushwalk or 4wd trip with a picnic.

#17
LSWCHP9:32 pm, 21 May 12

dungfungus said :

BOM still haven’t fixed the software to stop it showing the Gunning wind factory (why do they call them farms?) on days when it is generating.

I know a bit about radars. The windfarm problem is a long standing worldwide hassle for all sorts of radars, and it’s much harder to solve than you might imagine.

Furthermore, as this is a very old US radar, I doubt whether anyone in Australia has the source code for the software. The hardware is probably some long-forgetten ancient device with the code written in some language that nobody in Australia has ever heard of. Even if they did have the source, I doubt whether they have the rights to the intellectual property that would allow them to modify the source.

So, I might be wrong, but I reckon the only thing that will fix that problem is a new radar.

#18
LSWCHP9:35 pm, 21 May 12

Ben_Dover said :

Sounds neat! I should take a drive out there with my box brownie.

Do it. There’s more scenic photo ops up there than you could poke a wooly bull at.

#19
GardeningGirl9:42 pm, 21 May 12

Thanks LSWCHP, and everyone, for sharing. Very interesting.

#20
LSWCHP9:53 pm, 21 May 12

Snarky said :

Thanks LSWCHP, that’s interesting.

Not a weather geek myself, but going by your terminology explanation there, the replacement WSR-88D was first built in 1988, which isn’t really a great deal younger than a ’74. Has nothing improved in weather surveillance the last 24 years?

Not much, really. It’s not like the desktop PC world. :-)

The radar field is mind-bogglingly difficult to work in. Sonar is harder (hats off to you, sonar guys), but radar is still pretty tough.

The technical challenges are enormous, and advances are very slow. The fundamental concepts were all hashed out a long time ago, and most advances are made in areas such as mechanical reliability or space and weight reduction rather than increased capability.

For example, the very large and expensive SPY-1 phased array radar currently being installed on the Navy’s flash new air warfare destroyers was orginally developed back in the 1970′s. The computing platforms and other underlying technologies have improved, but the concept is pretty much unchanged over the last 40 years.

The same goes for weather radars. Once you’ve approached the boundaries of the laws of physics there’s not a whole helluva lot more you can do. I will note thought that the Australian weather radar network isn’t completely homogenous. There seems to be a variety of different devices in service, but I haven’t spent much time researching them as I was only interested in the Canberra station.

#21
AsparagusSyndrome10:33 pm, 21 May 12

It looks like a thingy.

#22
Primal11:07 pm, 21 May 12

AsparagusSyndrome said :

It looks like a thingy.

I know! That is quite obviously the handle for a giant poker machine…

#23
LSWCHP11:35 pm, 21 May 12

AsparagusSyndrome said :

It looks like a thingy.

I suspect that’s what Woody MC was getting at. :-)

However, I’m compelled to observe that it bears only the very faintest resemblance to a penis. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who once said that E-Type Jags looked like penises. I told him that if his penis looked looked an E-type Jag he should go and see a doctor immediately.

In a similar vein, if the thingy that you’re most familiar with (yours or a friends) emits a loud humming noise and has a couple of microwave dishes halfway up the shaft, well, seek help now. :-)

#24
Deref7:59 am, 22 May 12

dvaey said :

Deref said :

Very cool – thanks!

But I thought it was a Captain’s Flat.

Captain’s Flat Rd is the access road to the radar tower. The tower is approx 10km from Captain’s Flat.

:-) Thanks.

#25
IrishPete8:31 am, 22 May 12

LSWCHP said :

EvanJames said :

That’s a good picture, which road do you take to get to it? I have always wondered.

Head out to Captain’s Flat via Quangers. Continue on the Captain’s Flat road towards Braidwood for about 9km. You’ll end up at the crest of the Great Dividing Range, with a turnoff on the right which is the Cowangerong Fire Trail. There’s an information stand at the turnoff with a map and info about the forest flora and fauna. Follow the fire trail about 4.5 km, and there it is. I legged it, but it’s a pretty hefty climb, about the same is climbing Black Mountain from the lake. However, it’s an easy 4wd trip, or bouncy 2wd if you don’t care too much about your car. :-)

It’s the highest peak in the Range for a long way in any direction, which is why the radar is there. You can stand on the trail with the ground sloping away on both sides, with the Shoalhaven valley on one side and the Tinderry hills on the other side. Fantastic views and it’s absolutely peaceful…not a sound except for some birds chirping and the odd startled roo bouncing away through the scrub.

I can’t recommend it highly enough for a bit of a bushwalk or 4wd trip with a picnic.

There is actuallly another left turn off the Cowangerong Fire Trail – miss it and you’ll end up somewhere else. Watch out for trail bikes on the weekend. Generally they’re in groups, so if you see one, expect others.

As a local, I object to the sign saying “Canberra Weather Radar” and have embryonic plans to remodel it one day.

It’s always worth checking a local website when you want information about something http://www.captainsflat.org/links.htm#Weather

IP

#26
IrishPete8:33 am, 22 May 12

dvaey said :

Deref said :

Very cool – thanks!

But I thought it was a Captain’s Flat.

Captain’s Flat Rd is the access road to the radar tower. The tower is approx 10km from Captain’s Flat.

These directions aren’t much help, as CF Road runs 40km to CF from Queanbeyan, and another 25 East of CF towards Braidwood. And the weather radar isn’t signposted. Someone else has posted more precise directions – use them.

IP

#27
IrishPete8:34 am, 22 May 12

p.s. this map will get you there, and lots of other places too http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/southTallagandaDraftOperations.pdf

#28
p19:47 am, 22 May 12

For those who like maps…

The obligatory google map.

#29
Growling Ferret8:22 am, 22 May 13

The recent upgrade worked at the Captains Flat BOM Radar. It now permanently records the windfarms at Gunning, Bungendore and out towards Crookwell as storm activity.

#30
dungfungus9:33 am, 22 May 13

Growling Ferret said :

The recent upgrade worked at the Captains Flat BOM Radar. It now permanently records the windfarms at Gunning, Bungendore and out towards Crookwell as storm activity.

The Gunning wind factory was shown on the CF radar since the day the blades there started turning (read comment #9). As other wind factories have since been commissioned (such as the one at Conroy’s Gap near Yass) they “paint” regularly as does the one at Collector and occasionally the one on the eastern shore of Lake George.
All the radar “upgrade” appears to have done is to intensify the images reflected by the wind factories.
Someone else suggested the only way to avoid this is to replace the radar entirely but the BOM have instead tried to do a software upgrade and it appears to have failed.

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