WIUDOW 1 Lessons Learned

The WIUDOW project was incredibly successful. The DOW was integrated into the GEOG 300: Principles of Meteorological Instrumentation course as one of the field projects that student groups had to complete. Since this is an Instruments course, students focused primarily on instrument-related issues and using the DOW to collect data. Students spent a few weeks before the DOW arrived learning about doppler radar, proposing a field project and documenting their proposed field site. Once the DOW arrived, students received training, carried out their field project and documented their experience in the project report.

West-Central Illinois had been in a long period without rain, so most of the student projects focused on clear-air observations. This allowed students to get hands-on experience with the DOW without precipitation, but it also made data interpretation more challenging. Ground clutter was a problem because the student projects were looking at phenomena close to the ground. One student group discovered that a single train track became two train tracks in the radar image. These students have continued their data analysis using SOLO3 and ArcGIS to document characteristics of the radar beam side lobes.

Power lines were a ground clutter source that was difficult to detect during site selection using GoogleEarth. After the first deployment where power lines were determined to be a real problem when detecting power plant steam emissions, project groups were told to pick one or two back-up sites in addition to the original site. Still, the DOW team often had to choose a site “on-the-fly” because of power lines.

The DOW was a fantastic tool to use in the Instruments class, but having DOW data analyst, Paul Robinson, available to help with clear air data interpretation made the field projects so much more beneficial than they would have been otherwise. Paul was able to help interpret data in the field so that scanning strategies were adjusted to bring out interesting details. Paul is not usually available to accompany the DOW, but it would be very beneficial to have someone available who was willing to help with data interpretation during deployments, especially in clear-air situations.

Meteorology majors at Western Illinois University would like to thank the Center for Sever Weather Research and the National Science Foundation for the opportunity to use the DOW radar. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of our students. Several of them are more interested in graduate school and instrumentation as a result of their experience with the DOW.