Early warning weather radar station at Redbank Plains.
Early warning weather radar station at Redbank Plains.

Weather radar aids research

WHAT looks like a giant golf ball perched on the top of a mountain in Redbank Plains is actually a special type of radar which is giving weather researchers valuable information on severe storms in south-east Queensland.

Operational since early 2007, the $2.5 million dual frequency polarmetric radar on Mt Juillerat is being used to aid research being conducted by the Centre for Australian Climate and Weather Research.

The centre is an arm of the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO is hoping to use information from the radar to improve the accuracy of rainfall measurements, rain drop sizes and detection of hail storms.

Centre for Australian Climate and Weather Research deputy director Peter May said the radar also played a key role in a cloud seeding research program – the results of which have been submitted to the State Government.

“As well as radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity – which our capital sites measure – it transmits radio pulses with different polarisations,” Mr May said.

“This allows us to better discriminate whether we are seeing echoes from weather or something else like planes, buildings, insects or birds.”

The idea of being able to more accurately predict severe rainfall events would be of interest to those in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley following January’s terrifying inland tsunami.

At the time of the radar’s official opening, then parliamentary secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, said the Bureau of Meteorology chose Redbank Plains as the location because south-east Queensland was affected by an average of 10 severe storms a year, with significant potential for intense rainfall and flooding in a fast-growing region.

However, Mr May was reluctant to make any suggestion that the information being gathered at Redbank Plains could one day be used to pre-warn people of such a catastrophe.

“We are evaluating the technology ... but the radar is not a panacea,” he said.

“It needs to be evaluated in the context of a complete forecast system.”

A recent mechanical breakdown meant centre staff had to dismantle the antenna. Researchers decided the repairs provided an opportunity to bring forward a planned upgrade to the antenna.

Mr May said the work had been delayed by issues with export licences, but he hoped the radar would be operating again by mid-year.

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