Tuesday, June 10, 2008



Note to Editors: Information recorded by CHILL on the May 22 Windsor, Colo., tornado can be found at - Colorado State University this spring installed a unique antenna on one of the nation's most advanced polarimetric weather radars to more precisely detect major storms and precipitation. The new antenna gives scientists a "more delicate knife" to evaluate thunderstorms and the size and distribution of rain, hail and snow, said Steven Rutledge, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State and the scientific director of the CSU-CHILL radar facility.

The radar, located next to the Greeley-Weld County Airport and known as CSU-CHILL, has the capability of seeing a single hail stone in the atmosphere more than 10 miles away. So-called dual polarization technology will be adopted as the new National Weather Service standard starting next year and deployed on the nation's WSR-88D radars, used to warn the public about developing severe weather. The CSU-CHILL radar supports this effort by developing new techniques that will be used on the weather warning radar network.

The CHILL facility is jointly operated by the Colorado State University departments of Atmospheric Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition to Rutledge, V.N. Bringi and V. Chandrasekar, professors of electrical engineering, serve as principal investigators on the award from the National Science Foundation, which exceeds $3 million over a three-year period.

CHILL has been at Colorado State University since 1990 under continuous support from the National Science Foundation and the state of Colorado. Using its unique dual-polarization technology, the CHILL provided unprecedented data on the July 1997 Spring Creek Flood in Fort Collins, recording a more accurate rain amount by nearly 5 inches than what the National Weather Service radars measured during the storm.

The new antenna technology was installed in February as the result of a three-year, $1.4 million National Science Foundation grant led by Bringi. The antenna was custom designed and manufactured by VertexRSI, a division of General Dynamics, in Killgore, Texas, which provided $250,000 worth of in-kind support for the project. The installation of the antenna marked the first time this type of antenna technology has been installed on a weather radar anywhere in the world.

"We'll get much more precise measurements with this new antenna technology," Rutledge said. "We can better detect heavy rain and hail. That's important to tracking flooding rains and damaging hail more precisely."

The dual polarization measurements are so valuable that the National Weather Service will adopt this technology in its national network of 150 warning radars. The National Weather Service will implement dual polarization radar capabilities starting in 2009 and expects to complete the installations by 2010. Previous radar network upgrades occurred in 1957 and 1988.

Dual-polarization works by transmitting and receiving both horizontal and vertical radiation. This technique allows better discrimination of particle shapes, which allows more accurate information to be gathered on rain and hail, snowflakes and other particles in clouds.

"The integration of CSU CHILL dual polarimetric capabilities into the nation's weather radar network represents a major milestone in our effort to address the ever increasing demand for accurate forecast and warning services," said Larry Mooney, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Boulder.

CHILL is an S-band frequency radar - the frequency currently used by the National Weather Service - that operates at 3 gigahertz. The antenna is housed within an inflatable dome for protection against wind and precipitation.

"Some of the most exciting developments in radar took place over the last decade, and we played a role," said Bringi. "The new technology helps us understand the finer structure in storms. We can demonstrate the advancement of the science of meteorological radar right here at CSU."

The radar can give scientists an idea of what's coming about four hours in advance. But the information also helps make models used in weather forecasting more intelligent.

"We use the observations and the radar as the primary tools to improve the modeling," Bringi said.

Chandrasekar has used the radar as part of testing a sophisticated network of radars in Oklahoma's tornado alley to improve early warning systems for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms The radars are in or near Chickasha, Lawton and Cyril and Rush Springs, Okla., but Colorado State faculty and students monitor the radars 24 hours a day, seven days a week from computers in the College of Engineering.

In 2003, Colorado State teamed with universities across the nation in the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere, or CASA, to develop a network of radar systems. The University of Massachusetts at Amherst is the lead institution. The radar system in the Oklahoma test bed is the result of a multidisciplinary collaborative effort among all of CASA's partners: Colorado State, UMass, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Puerto Rico.

CASA's primary mission is to develop a Distributed Collaborative Adaptive Sensing radar network at higher frequencies than CHILL radar such as X-band. The S-band frequency is used by the current nationwide deployment of weather radars. X-band is about three times the frequency of S-band. This higher frequency is needed to make smaller and less expensive radars compared to a radar like CHILL.

More fun facts about the CSU-CHILL radar:

- History: The original CHILL radar was assembled in 1970 by the University of Chicago and the Illinois State Water Survey, which is where the radar gets its name. It was moved to CSU in 1990.

- Staff: Requires three full-time staff - Pat Kennedy, Dave Brunkow and Bob Bowie. (A fourth staff member, recent electrical engineering master's graduate Jim George, is being hired.)

- Antenna: When the antenna is looking straight up, the highest point of the antenna is approximately 50 feet above the ground. The antenna is made of aluminum and weighs nearly 6,000 pounds.

- Dome: 64 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter at the base; weighs 8,000 pounds; consists of the same nylon-reinforced vinyl used in the concourse tents at Denver International Airport. Dome cost is $500,000.

- Power: CHILL transmits a peak power of 1 million watts.


Preparing For Hurricanes
During Disasters, Radio Operators Play A Big Role

Kathy Waters/Highlands Today

From left: Larry Ambuel demonstrates how to send an email using a radio signal as amateur operator Randy Payne watches Tuesday at the Hurricane Expo at the Highlands County Agri-Civic Center in Sebring.

Published: June 4, 2008

SEBRING — When the lines of communication go down during a disaster, ham radio operators can help local rescue crews exchange vital information.

If power goes out, the phone lines fail, the cell phone towers don't work and Internet access is down, hams provide that missing two-way communication link that can save lives.

During Tuesday night's Hurricane Seminar at the Agri-Civic Center, led by Emergency Management Director Bill Nichols, several ham enthusiasts were on hand to talk to the public and demonstrate cutting-edge radio technology.

Hams are often known simply by their FCC call signs. At Tuesdays seminar, K4EZM (Randy Payne, of Sebring), AA4ME (Fred Seely, of Avon Park) and AA8QS (Larry Ambuel, of Sebring), talked about serving during the 2004 hurricane season.

About 20 active local hams are members of the national Amateur Radio Relay League. The local chapter is the Highlands County Amateur Radio Club, with those at Tuesday's event a sub group of that branch –– the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).

Payne broadcast from the Agri-Civic Center, which was one of about nine county shelters in 2004. He transmitted hourly updates to the Emergency Operations Center and response teams concerning the shelter, including the number of residents and staff, emergency medical situations and the amount of supplies available.

"It's a labor of love to take a hobby I very much enjoy and to help other people," said Payne.

Nichols said that the hams are one of the strongest volunteer groups the EOC works with.

"They're so strong and so good; they're not our backup communications, but our primary," said Nichols. "They're so good at what they do, we don't use the phones (during past hurricanes). They're professional, reliable and they are there."

On Tuesday, Ambuel sent an e-mail identical to one written on a conventional computer, but broadcast through ham radio airwaves. Ambuel faced the brunt of Hurricane Charley while working in Punta Gorda. READ>


Two People Saved After Boat Sank

NEW YORK-Two people were rescued from a life raft after their sportfishing vessel sank approximately nine miles off the coast of Moriches, N.Y., at about 5:45 p.m., today.

Greg Mastonardi, owner of the 33-foot Topaz sportfishing boat First Light, was transiting between Egg Harbor Inlet N.J., to Shinnecock Inlet, N.Y., with passenger Mark Edwards, when he called Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound to notify them his boat was taking on water and his dewatering pumps were having a difficult time keeping up. The Coast Guard instructed Edwards and the other passenger to put on their life jackets.

"We launched a 47-foot motor life boat from Coast Guard Station Shinnecock, a 27-foot rescue boat from Station Moriches, and a HH-60 rescue helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod immediately," said Peter Winters, a civilian search and rescue controller at Sector Long Island Sound.

Nine minutes later, Mastonardi notified search and rescue controllers at Sector Long Island Sound that water was overtaking the vessel and he was going to have to abandon ship.

"We asked them to activate their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) right before we lost communications with them," said Winters. "Seatow overheard Mastonardi call to Sector Long Island Sound and told us they were nearby. We passed their position to Seatow and they headed towards the location."

Seatow arrived at 6:03 p.m. where they pulled Mastonardi and Edwards from their life raft to safety. The First Light sank in 108-feet of water. READ>

The Coast Guard's Most Extreme Rescue: Cover Story Preview Before dawn on March 23, 2008, the Alaska Ranger ship sank in America's deadliest waters.

As 47 souls fought for survival, the Coast Guard launched one of the most daring and dramatic rescues in history. Read an exclusive excerpt from “Ranger Down,” watch author Kalee Thompson track the mission on PopMech TV, hear the Mayday call, browse Coast Guard gear with interactive graphics, then pick up the July issue of PM for the full story!