NASA mission brings large radars to western NC - FOX Carolina 21

NASA mission brings large radars to western NC

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The NASA radar field office set up in Rutherfordton, NC. (April 28, 2014/FOX Carolina) The NASA radar field office set up in Rutherfordton, NC. (April 28, 2014/FOX Carolina)

It can be spotted from miles away and has already brought dozens of onlookers out to the field in Rutherford County where scientists are documenting local precipitation.

David Wolff, research scientist with NASA, said they have two radars set up at a field office on Lambs Grill Road near Rutherfordton as part of a satellite mission launched on Feb. 27 to map precipitation across the globe.

The radars provide state-of-the-art measurements of rain intensity but are also capable of delineating between, rain, sleet, snow and hail. The two radars are referred to as the larger, NASA Polarimetric radar (NPOL) and is a S-band (10 cm) dual-polarized radar (similar to current NWS radars). They also have a smaller dual-frequency, dual-polarization, Doppler Radar (D3R).

They are being used in support of NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, which is a joint satellite between NASA and the Japanese Space Exploration Agency used to help track global rainfall, in conjunction with other constellation satellites.

Wolff said they have crews working around the clock with various types of instruments to document and study the weather and precipitation of North Carolina as part of GPM.

The project runs from May 1 until June 15, though Wolff said they will be documenting the rain and weather leading up to Thursday. He said the main project is sponsored by NASA, Duke University (Dr. Ana Barros) and NOAA.

He said they have had an enormous number of people stopping by and they're encouraging visitors and school groups to tour the field office.

The project was set up on a field owned by a local fourth-grade teacher, Wolff said. He said it took nearly 10 days to prepare the ground and set up all of the instruments and when the project is finished, it will be packed up in about three to five days then transported back to NASA's facility on Wallops Island, VA.

The satellite radar has documented weather conditions in the past few years in Oklahoma and Iowa. Wolff said when it leaves North Carolina, the team will have a break until they it out west to study winter weather in the mountains near Seattle in the winter of 2015-16.

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