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The National Centre for Atmospheric Science and the Environment Agency have successfully deployed the NCAS X-band weather radar in Cumbria. The radar will provide new observations to improve the Environment Agency’s flood forecasting and warning services.

Over the next year, the portable radar will provide rainfall information over a region of North Cumbria which is not adequately covered by the UK’s permanent radar network.

The deployment is a collaborative research agreement between the Environment Agency, the University of Leeds and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, called Radar Applications in Northern England (RAIN-E).

radar deployment 500px

Despite recent flooding events having significant consequences in Cumbria, the region is not well-observed by the national weather radar network. By providing high-resolution coverage of the area, the NCAS X-band radar will allow researchers to better understand extreme precipitation in the area, and related events like flooding. Rainfall in Cumbria is heavily influenced by the mountains for which this region is famous, and new radar observations will provide much-needed insight into how air flows around mountains, and how rain is formed in these regions.

The radar deployment will be useful for both researchers and forecasting professionals. The Environment Agency will use information provided by the radar to support the development of a long-term weather radar solution for Cumbria, and scientists at NCAS will use the data to understand more about the challenges associated with collecting precipitation data over mountainous terrain. Additionally, researchers will learn more about integrating multiple sources of rainfall data into the national weather radar network. In the future, this could allow for bespoke observational solutions for communities throughout the UK.

Tim Harrison, Senior Advisor for the Environment Agency said: “The deployment of the NCAS radar will help us to build a strong case for investment where it’s needed. We’re seeing many benefits from the collaboration including a greater interest from all parties to integrate data from deployments like this, and other third party radars into the national Met Office rainfall products.”

Weather radars are the most effective way to collect real-time rainfall information and NCAS operates the only mobile weather radar in the UK. The radar transmits pulses of electromagnetic radiation into the atmosphere and measures the amount of energy reflected back. Energy is reflected back when it hits precipitation particles, like rain droplets or snow. The amount of energy reflected back is proportional to the size and number of precipitation particles and researchers can use this information to inform weather forecasting.

radar deployment north cumbria 500pxRyan Neely and Lindsay Bennett, scientists at the National Centre for Atmospheric Science added: “Being the only mobile weather radar in the UK, the NCAS X-band radar is uniquely able to make observations of rain in areas that are inadequately covered by the UK’s permanent radar network. We’re happy to be working with the Environment Agency to provide them with high resolution data in this under-observed region so that they may improve their flood forecasts. We’re also excited to make observations in a new region that will allow us to explore many scientific questions about the rainfall processes in mountainous terrain.”

The latest information collected by the NCAS radar in Cumbria is available to view on the RAIN-E website, where you can also find more information about the joint research agreement.