York U leads Canada?s first VHF wind profiler

Canadian Universities Forum (discussion group)

Subject: York U leads Canada?s first VHF wind profiler
York U leads Canada?s first VHF wind profiler network
Technology to improve accuracy of weather forecasting

TORONTO, October 22, 2007 -- York University, in collaboration with the University of Western Ontario and McGill University, is leading the development of a new network of VHF radars that can more accurately observe severe wind conditions, including clear-air turbulence.

The Ontario-Quebec VHF Windprofiler Radar Network (or ?O-Q net?) can measure the speed and direction of winds up to ten kilometres into the sky. Funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Trust, it is Canada?s first such network.

?It?s state-of-the art technology in this field,? says York professor Peter Taylor, the project?s principal investigator. ?In the US, wind profiler data has already been credited with saving lives. Forecasters were able to recognize the warning signs of tornadoes with significantly more advanced warning than would otherwise have been available.?

VHF (Very High Frequency) wind profiler technology, introduced to Canada largely by Wayne Hocking at University of Western Ontario and MARDOC Inc., relies partially on Doppler radar techniques to measure horizontal and vertical winds. This technology can bypass problems that have affected other wind profilers, including signal contamination caused by birds and insects, and will also reduce contamination caused by precipitation.

Taylor notes that Doppler weather radar can measure winds, but generally only where precipitation is present. ?In essence, it?s blind to most of what?s going on above us much of the time, and those high-level winds are what guide forecasts on the ground,? he says.

The O-Q net will also report upper level or clear-air turbulence, in which planes are buffeted by sudden, severe turbulence that can emerge out of a cloudless sky.

Taylor notes that up until now, wind measurements have been primarily obtained from twice-daily weather balloons, which are flown from a limited number of stations and take hours to deploy.

?In severe weather situations, we need the data continuously, which is the advantage of the O-Q net: we can collect and disseminate wind and turbulence data in real-time,? he says

Along with forecasting severe weather, the O-Q net will work with Environment Canada to improve day-to-day accuracy of forecasting across Ontario. Pilot sites in southern Ontario and Quebec are being expanded to a network of ten sites.

Taylor notes that Southern Ontario is a critical area for these studies because of the strong influence of the Great Lakes on air quality and severe weather. Taylor?s graduate students in York?s Earth & Space Science Program have already made significant contributions in these areas and will be closely involved in using the wind profiler network?s data.

Data from the Harrow wind profiler, located at the Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC) research station, can be accessed at: http://www.yorku.ca/oqnet/Harrow . For more info on the project, visit: http://quark.physics.uwo.ca/~whocking/cfi/home.html .


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