MAY 12, 2004

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OU selected as national distribution site for radar data

The Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms at the University of Oklahoma has been selected as one of three sites in the United States to distribute real time NEXRAD Doppler weather radar data via the Internet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced recently.

The data will be made available free of charge to academic users and for the cost of delivery to private sector and government users via a new OU organization called Integrated Radar Data Services, or IRaDS. In addition, the National Weather Service Telecommunication Operations Center will make the radar data available through a “Family of Services” approach if sufficient interest exists within the commercial community.

“The selection of the University of Oklahoma as one of the three centers in the nation for the distribution of crucial weather data is further evidence of the university’s national and international leadership in the field of meteorology,” said OU President David L. Boren. “It’s a great tribute to the quality of our faculty and students.”

The distribution of NEXRAD radar data via the Internet was pioneered during the past five years at OU in a project known as the Collaborative Radar Acquisition Field Test, or CRAFT. It involved collaborators from NOAA, including the National Severe Storms Laboratory and Radar Operations Center in Norman, along with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and several private companies. CRAFT initially was funded by a $210,000 seed grant from the State Regents for Higher Education, subsequently generating more than $2.5 million in federal funding for Oklahoma. The highly successful project led the National Weather Service to adopt the novel Internet-based data transmission methodology.

Kelvin Droegemeier, Regents’ professor of meteorology at OU and director of the Center for Analysis and Prediction of Storms, who initiated and directed CRAFT, said, “I’m told that it was one of the most successful public-private partnerships ever in the field of meteorology. Everyone, including private sector competitors, worked for the good of the whole, and the result was a concept that broke down barriers and led to a system that benefits all users of NEXRAD data.

“Because of Project CRAFT, entirely new uses of radar data are emerging, bringing added benefits to the public and energizing private industry,” he added.

In addition to the many benefits of real time NEXRAD radar data for weather prediction and warning, CRAFT completely changed the way NEXRAD data are archived. Prior to CRAFT, the data were recorded at each radar site on 8mm tapes and mailed to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Because the tapes were unreliable, the 10-year radar archive was only about 60 percent complete. Furthermore, access to archived data often required weeks or months, especially for large volumes, frequently at significant cost. Today, the NCDC ingests NEXRAD radar data directly from the Internet at a more than 95 percent completion rate, and makes the same data available, free of charge via the Internet, to any user in a matter of minutes.

For more information on IRaDS, visit http://radarservices.org