Buffalo radar goes down for repair starting Thursday

Local News

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – Like all technology, repairs and upgrades are essential. That upgrade will mean a week without radar out of Buffalo, NY. The WSR-88D (Weather Surveillance Doppler Radar installed in 1988) is positioned just east of Buffalo and is easily seen from the Thruway. This is the main tool that meteorologists in Rochester use to identify certain weather patterns.

A few of the uses of radar in no particular order:

  1. Identifying where precipitation is falling
  2. Precipitation type
  3. Intensity of precipitation
  4. Movement of precipitation
  5. Downbursts
  6. Rotation in thunderstorms (potential early tornado detection)
  7. Straight-line winds
  8. Location and intensity of lake-effect snow bands

The list goes on and losing radar can be crippling for a forecaster. Rarely do the WSR-88D’s go down, but when they do it can be at the most critical times, like from the winds of a hurricane or tornado. Luckily, there are many other radars that will remain fully functional during the time Buffalo’s radar is down, although Buffalo is still the closest WSR-88D radar to Rochester.

Rochester is about 55 miles away from the Buffalo radar. as the beam extends outward, it increases in altitude based on the curvature of the earth and is about 3,000 ft above ground.

The radar will be out of service and getting several upgrades of the generator, fuel tanks, and other components. It will be out for about a week starting October 8. According to the NWS, this is a major upgrade that will help them keep the radar operational for at least another ten years:

This generator update is the fifth major project of the NEXRAD Service Life Extension Program, a
series of upgrades and replacements that will keep our nation’s radars viable into the 2030’s.
NOAA National Weather Service, the United States Air Force, and the Federal Aviation
Administration are investing $150 million in the seven year program. The first project was the
installation of the new signal processor and the second project was the transmitter
refurbishment. The two remaining projects are the refurbishment of the pedestal and equipment
shelters. The Service Life Extension Program will complete in 2023.

In the meantime, we will have to use several other radars surrounding the region. That includes Cleveland, OH (KCLE), Binghamton, NY (KBGM), and Montague (KTYX). We can also make use of the smaller radar at our sister station WSYR in Syracuse. Satellite data will also become a critical tool in weather analysis.

Learn more about the WSR-88D radar system here.

Above photo credit: By Original Photograph By: Andrew J Oldaker – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:LabNexrad.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3124873

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