What needs to be done?

    To address at least one and more optimally two additional Weather Service radar need to be place on the Pacific Northwest coast.  With two radars, one radar could be place on the central Washington Coast--Westport would be a good placement--with the other radar along the central Oregon Coast, perhaps near Newport.   If only one radar could be acquired, the central Washington coast would probably be the best location, since it would provide surveillance for the entrances to both the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Columbia River, would provide crucial precipitation information over the flood prone southern flanks of the Olympics, and would give upstream weather information for the highly populous region stretching from the northern Willamette Valley to Puget Sound.

    The acquisition costs for an additional radar would be substantial, with acquisition and installation costing approximately 9 million dollars, with additional costs for utilities and maintenance each year (approximately $500K per year).  But such costs are small compared to the substantial benefits such coastal radars would provide.  A single improved forecast could save millions of dollars and several lives.  It is of interest that several local TV stations have been able to afford weather radars (although far less capable than the NWS units).  The University of Washington is considering spending 8-10 million dollars to renovate its golf driving range...surely, an equal sum could be found to greatly improve the safety and comfort of resident of the entire region.    Other regions of the country have requested and secured additional radars to fill in holes in coverage.  The Pacific Northwest has a strong claim to similar treatment.

  How do we proceed from here?  Perhaps the best approach would be to contact our representatives in the Senate and the House of Representatives, asking them to supply additional funds to the National Weather Service to add one or two Northwest coastal radars.  (Click here for Senatorial contact information).  Additional funds are crucial because the NWS does not have support for extensions to the current radar network.  It would also be useful to directly contact higher officials in the National Weather Service and NOAA, letting them know about our concerns regarding this major deficiency in the national observing network.

For more information:  Cliff Mass, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington (206-685-0910), cliff@atmos.washington.edu