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JACKSON, MISS. – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today announced that an improved Doppler radar in Mississippi is now helping weather forecasters more accurately track, assess, and warn the public of approaching high-impact weather. The new radar technology was used by forecasters last Sunday to confirm a large tornado was moving across Lamar County toward Hattiesburg.

Just weeks ago, the National Weather Service forecast office in Jackson upgraded its Doppler radar serving the region with a new life-saving technology called Dual-polarization, or “dual-pol.” Still being tested, this radar provides meteorologists with enhanced information about the atmosphere allowing them to keep a sharper eye on overall weather conditions in Mississippi.

The upgrade to dual-pol technology is the most significant enhancement made to the nation’s Next Generation Weather Radar network, NEXRAD, since Doppler radar was first installed in the early 1990s. The upgrade will provide more detailed information about the size, shape, density, and intensity of the precipitation in the clouds. This will allow storm forecasters and emergency managers to make quicker and more informed decisions in efforts to protect life and property from severe weather events.

Another important benefit: dual-pol can also see small bits of debris kicked up by a tornado which gives forecasters the ability to confirm a tornado even in the dark. The new technology will also help detect hazards to aircraft, such as icing conditions and birds.

“The tornadoes that struck South Mississippi earlier this week are reminders of the importance of this issue,” said Wicker. “Forecasters using this new technology will be able to issue more accurate and timely warnings to the public, which can save lives.”

“Mississippians are no strangers to extreme weather conditions, and this significant radar upgrade will increase public awareness of those situations. Numerous studies show that awareness and confidence in weather predictions can increase public safety and help save lives and money. The tornadoes that hit the Pine Belt last weekend are a testament to that fact,” Cochran said. “NOAA and the National Weather Service did the right thing by bringing this new technology to our state.”

“In addition to detecting the tornado that hit Hattiesburg, dual pol information helped us recognize thunderstorms with particularly heavy rainfall rates were moving through the I-20 corridor. This enabled us to issue flash flood warnings well ahead of significant flooding which occurred in the Jackson metro area,” said Alan Gerard, meteorologist-in-charge of the Jackson forecast office.

The Jackson forecast office serves more than 1.5 million people in 58 counties and parishes in southeast Arkansas, northeast Louisiana and central Mississippi. This is one of the most active weather regions in the world, with the potential for disasters produced by tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and even ice storms.

Businesses in the region will also benefit from the enhanced information dual-pol brings. Farmers, small businesses, corporations and others who rely on weather forecasts will have a clearer picture of current weather conditions and better information to protect their employees and livelihoods.

In informing Wicker and Cochran of the upgrade for Mississippi, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, wrote: “The new technology will help forecasters on many fronts. It will improve detection of heavy rainfall which may increase lead time for flash flood warnings. Forecasters will be able to identify the difference between hail, snow, rain, and mixes of each in a storm. Dual-pol can spot areas of airborne tornado debris from surrounding precipitation which gives forecasters the ability to confirm a tornado even in the dark. The new technology will also help detect hazards to aircraft, such as icing conditions and birds.”

The nationwide upgrade to dual-pol is part of NOAA’s effort to build a Weather-Ready Nation. Dual-pol radars also could save the nation about $700 million annually by reducing weather-related damages. For more information, watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX6LH_l3P3Y.

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