SAN FRANCISCO — Water management districts in Northern California are in the process of deploying a series of radars that are expected to help meteorologists better detect weather events that happen in areas where current systems have difficulty seeing.
The effort is part of a $20 million grant from the California Department of Water Resources that could lead to more than half a dozen new radar sites from North Sonoma to Santa Cruz.
"Our radar is up high, and so we do overshoot the very lowest level storms that come through. So, this system will definitely fill in gaps in our low-level visibility," said Brian Garcia, a National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist.
Meteorologists say even though the Bay Area has three radars at its disposal, what makes full coverage difficult is the area’s complex terrain.
"We are a highly dynamic topographic area. So now, we’ll be able to see the storms at lower elevations better, Garcia said.
The California DWR says that more accurately predicting the impact of winter storms is essential because the state receives around half its annual precipitation from the events known as atmospheric rivers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says atmospheric rivers are similar to rivers in the sky that help transport moisture from outside the tropics to a specific area.
Even though some new radars are online, challenges remain in getting data to the national radar mosaic.
Garcia estimated that it could take at least a year before technicians can link the radars to the National Weather Service’s network, but once work is complete, it could be a game-changer for Northern California.
"It’s really going to help out once we get the radar data coming in a format that’s digestible, understandable by our system. That’s when it’ll really start helping," Garcia said.
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