February 26, 2018 to March 17, 2018
Project Location: 
West Lafayette, IN
Project Description: 
Enhancing Radar Education at Purdue University using the Doppler on Wheels (PuRad)

Principle Investigators: Robin Tanamachi
Where: Purdue University
When: 26 February - 17 March 2018
Facility: CSWR Doppler on Wheels


Within the last five years, all National Weather Service Radars - 1988 Doppler (WSR-88Ds), which provide frequent, near-real-time observations of the lower atmospheric weather, have been upgraded to dual-polarization capability. This nationwide upgrade necessitates effective instruction of current meteorology students in the operating principles of polarimetric weather radar, as well as interpretation and analysis of polarimetric radar observations. Adult education research has established that personal interaction with research-grade technology and techniques, including the generation of new and novel observations, can reinforce a student’s educational experience and better equip him or her with the skills needed for their future careers (NRC 2000, 2017). In this context, we propose a three-week educational deployment of a polarimetric Doppler on Wheels (DOW) mobile radar system in support of a wide range of meteorology courses at Purdue University during the spring 2018 semester.

The DOW and its operators will also participate in university, K-12 school, and public outreach efforts across the greater Lafayette, Indiana area, exposing many young people to the fundamentals concepts of radar and meteorology-related STEM careers. This project will hereafter be called “PurRad” (short for “Purdue Radar,” and pronounced like the English word “parade”). 

For more than 20 years, the operators of the DOW radar family have been exceptionally successful at collecting novel, high-quality observations of mesoscale and microscale weather phenomena, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Through PurRad, we will avail ourselves not just of the DOW instruments, but also the wide-ranging experience of the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR) staff and scientists, to enhance instruction of Purdue students and the general public in the field of radar meteorology. Purdue has been the site of highly successful educational deployments of the DOW in the past (Trapp 2010, 2012; Toth et al. 2011).

Project Goals and Expected Outcomes

Enhanced instruction in Purdue Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science (EAPS) courses.
A total of approximately 200 EAPS students, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, will be directly impacted by this deployment. The DOW will be used primarily in the course EAPS 52300 (Radar Meteorology; typical enrollment 12 students), taught by PI Tanamachi. This course covers radar history, basic operating principles, hardware, scanning strategies, polarimetric radar principles, signal processing, data interpretation, and radar-based nowcasting. Students will be required to deploy and operate the DOW to collect observations of local weather phenomena, such as storms, frontal passages, and precipitation events. In a past version of this course, the PI rented a mobile Doppler radar from another institution, but the rental was only eight days long owing to cost. Despite the short duration, in their course evaluations, those students cited the hands-on demonstration of the mobile radar as one of the more impactful aspects of the course. Instructors of EAPS 43400 (Weather Analysis and Forecasting; Prof. Michael Baldwin; 15 students) and EAPS 59100 (Climatology of Extreme Weather; Prof. Daniel Chavas; 12 students), will use the radar to demonstrate basic advantages and limitations of radar observations for the purposes of operational forecasting and climatological analysis, respectively. For the atmospheric science freshmen and sophomores, class demonstrations are planned for EAPS 13800 (Thunderstorms and Tornadoes; Dr. Ernest Agee; 96 students), and EAPS 22100 (Survey of Atmospheric Science; Dr. Harshvardhan; 50 students). The latter two instructors are very enthusiastic about the prospect of a DOW demonstration for their respective classes. Evaluation: The PI will maintain “head count” of students visiting and interacting with the DOW over the course of the deployment. Students in upper-level classes will be required to answer a short in-course survey regarding the impact that the DOW deployment had on their knowledge and understanding of radar.

Augmentation of undergraduate capstone and graduate course projects by the addition of DOW radar observations.
Applications may include weather event case studies, multi-Doppler analysis and assimilation of the DOW observations into numerical weather prediction models, depending on what is most appropriate for the phenomena under study. The PI has extensive experience analyzing data from mobile Doppler radars and assimilating it into numerical weather prediction models, and will advise students wishing to use the data for their class projects. The observations collected during this educational deployment will be archived in the Purdue research Repository (PURR), and made available to Purdue students and faculty members, as well as local high schools and community organizations, by request. Evaluation: The impact of the DOW on student projects will be gauged by the number of projects directly integrating the data, and by any conference preprints and refereed journal articles resulting.

Exposure of both K-12 and University students to meteorology-related careers in STEM.
The EAPS department’s outreach coordinator, Mr. Steven Smith, will be principally responsible for overseeing this element of the educational deployment. We plan to host a public “citizen science” day at Purdue University under the auspices of the Global Learning Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE). GLOBE is an earth science education program supported by NASA, NSF, and NOAA. Purdue University is the only GLOBE partner institution in Indiana, and Mr. Smith is the regional representative. 

Beyond Purdue campus, several public demonstrations of the DOW are planned at public schools in the West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County, Indiana school districts, at Purdue University under multiple programs, and at the local science education center Imagination Station (an established community partner for this project). During each visit, the PI, Mr. Smith, and CSWR staff will teach attendees about severe weather, radar observations, and meteorology-related careers. Whenever possible, PI Tanamachi, her graduate students will also participate, and share their work and life experiences with the attendees. The PI requests the participation of CSWR staff member Dr. Karen Kosiba, a Purdue University EAPS graduate, in as many of these outreach efforts as possible. Dr. Kosiba is widely recognized severe weather researcher and a formidable role model for young women interested in STEM careers. Evaluation: The PI and Mr. Smith will maintain head counts of persons interacting with the DOW during these visits, and relay any comments related to its impact from teachers and school administrators. 

Collection of proxy radar data for a future Purdue X-band radar.
PI Tanamachi recently received funding for the installation of a stationary X-band radar near Purdue campus, with an expected completion date of late spring 2018. We propose to collect DOW observations similar in location, spatiotemporal resolution, and range those of the future Purdue campus radar. These observations will be used to plan scanning strategies, design volume coverage patterns, and map ground clutter for Purdue’s future X-band radar. Evaluation: The use of DOW observations in planning the Purdue X-band radar deployment will be documented in a journal article (see Broader Impacts).