Weather radar in Great Falls gets upgrade

The weather radar used by the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Great Falls will be down for approximately four days beginning Monday, March 27 for technicians to install an important technological upgrade. The work on the WSR-88D has been scheduled to minimize any potential impacts to office operations and will be delayed if hazardous weather is forecast.

During the outage, radar coverage is available from adjacent radar sites including Billings, Glasgow, Missoula and Pocatello.

A crew will install a new signal processor, which replaces obsolete technology, improves processing speed and data quality, provides added functionality, and supports IT security.

This is the first of four major upgrades, known as service life extension projects, planned in the next five years to replace and refurbish major components of the 20-year-old WSR-88Ds and to keep the radars operational into the 2030s. 

The $150 million investment is being made by the three organizations that use these radars: the NOAA National Weather Service, U.S. Air Force and Federal Aviation Administration. 

The other service life extension projects include refurbishing the transmitter, pedestal and equipment shelters.

The tri-agency Radar Operations Center, which supports the radars, estimates it will take about 10 months to upgrade the signal processor on all 159 operational WSR-88Ds.

A tentative deployment schedule is available at http://www.roc.noaa.gov/WSR88D/PublicDocs/SLEP/ECP0437SigProcSLEPDeployS....

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