Work to start on Otago weather radar


February 12, 2020 - 50 views

The first sods of earth are to be turned next week in the construction of Otago’s long-awaited $2.8 million weather radar system.

The new MetService radar will be situated on Lamb Hill, near Hindon, 25km northwest of Dunedin, and is expected to be operational in May.

MetService meteorological data services manager Kevin Alder said the location of the radar would provide excellent coverage of Dunedin city, the Taieri and Clutha River catchments, and eastern Otago from the Catlins to the Waitaki.

‘‘Building a radar at altitude — 750m above sea level — has its challenges, but we’ve been delighted by the support we’ve had from the landowner, the local councils, and our contractors,’’ Mr Alder said.

‘‘Current activities involve establishing electrical and communication services to the site, along with preparations for laying the concrete foundation for the radar tower and two small utility buildings.’’

He said the 12m-tall radar tower was being constructed off-site, while the radar and radome (the sphere at the top of the tower that contains the radar antenna) were on their final stages of a three-month journey from Finland to Port Chalmers.

They were expected to arrive early next month.

The final phase in April would involve the assembly of the tower and installation of the utility buildings on-site, along with the radar equipment.

‘‘Provided there are no major delays caused by adverse weather, MetService expects to have the radar operable by late May 2020.’’

Dunedin has been partly covered by radars in Southland and Canterbury, but there have been calls since 2008 for the area to have its own.

Otago Regional Council operations general manager Gavin Palmer said the council used MetService forecasts and data to manage its flood protection schemes, which provided flood protection to 20,000ha in Otago and parts of Dunedin.

‘‘The detail and accuracy that this new radar will provide is really going to assist the work ORC does around weather events and flooding in the coastal parts of the region.’’

Mr Alder said the Otago radar would have the latest dual-polarisation technologies to distinguish between different types of precipitation, such as rain, hail and snow.

Along with precise estimates of accumulated rainfall derived from the radar data, it would help meteorologists, hydrologists and emergency managers better understand weather impacts on communities, river catchments, and infrastructure.

The radar would allow the MetService to provide a severe thunderstorm warning service within the radar coverage area, as part of its severe weather warnings and watches programme.

‘‘We understand the importance of this radar, the 10th in our New Zealand network, to equip communities and councils in Otago with timely, accurate information to best prepare them for the effects of adverse weather,’’ he said.

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