Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 June 2013 Midway

Cassi Creek:
Borrowed from the Kansas City, Missouri office. "Here is a unique view of the El Reno, Oklahoma tornado from Friday, May 31st. Make sure to check out this image and see if you can spot the tornadic circulations!

A little background: This image is from an experimental radar operated at the National Weather Service Radar Test Bed in Norman, OK. It is a phased array radar, which is VERY different from weather radars currently in use. Current weather radars mechanically rotate and tilt a radar dish to sample different parts of the atmosphere. A phased array radar has a flat panel antenna that remains stationary. The panel is made up of a grid of fixed antenna elements, and each can transmit and receive a signal. As a result, the radar beam can be steered electronically, giving users the ability to control how, when and where the radar scans. A phased array radar updates every 45 seconds to 1 minute, while our current radars only update once every 5 minutes.

Why aren't phased array radars everywhere? Well, because phased array radars are very expensive (many times more costly than current radars), it will likely be many years before they are deployed on a routine basis across the country, if ever at all. Even so, however, just having one experimental radar like this one can give scientists a glimpse into severe thunderstorms like we've never had before!"

What has a 2013 weather radar warning system to do with the WWII battle of Midway?   Midway was the second of the great carrier fleet vs. carrier fleet battles.  The fleet commanders, admirals, and their flag ships from which they tried to direct the battle’s outcome, were never within sight or gun range of each other.  The focus of the fleet had shifted from battleships to carriers nearly instantly. 
          The battle was engaged based upon sightings of the Japanese fleet by scout aircraft, mostly based at Midway Island.  Both fleets launched multi-squadron airstrikes based upon incomplete data and a degree of dead reckoning.  The attack planes were flung at the guestimated position of the opposing fleet.
          The carnage among aviators was devastating.  Torpedo bombers and dive bombers flew into walls of anti-aircraft fire and many of them paid the ultimate price.  It was the uncertainty of the enemy’s position that allowed the U.S. to locate the Japanese carriers while they were re-arming on their flight decks.  That resulted in a loss of four Japanese carriers against the loss of one U.S. carrier. 
          Had either side had even basic search radar, actually in use in Britain against the Nazis, the outcome might have been much different.  But the Navy was fighting a hybrid war in the Pacific, and compared to the ETO, using obsolete tools and tactics.  As much as Midway was a turning point, it was also already behind the technical curve.
          It wasn’t until the 1950s that radar became a weather tool.  The discovery of the hook echo was a major turning point in tornado prediction.  As Doppler radar was phased in, the ability to track tornadic storms increased and the accuracy and timeliness of warnings became more reliable.  Now the phased array systems are being evaluated and found useful. 
          It was 71 years ago that the mechanisms of war at sea changed forever, using aircraft to project force over a wider area.  Our carriers today dwarf those of WWII and their technology would be almost miraculous to the men who flew piston engine aircraft off wooden decks without catapults.
          Phased array radar was developed in part to detect approaching aircraft and missiles and to direct defensive weaponry against them.  It is Aegis warship technology.  Now the NWS is once again studying how to take systems designed to detect and defend and apply it to detect and warn with greater accuracy and with a longer warning period than we currently have.  The phased array system in the link above will most likely become an additional tool used by the NWS to save civilian lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment