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Better weather radar coverage coming to Wisconsin

Climavision to install high resolution radars nationwide, including four in Wisconsin.
Posted at 7:42 PM, Dec 29, 2022

From tornadoes to high winds, hail to snowstorms, weather radars allow us to see into the clouds, and see where a storm will strike. But across Wisconsin, not all communities have the same access to these important tools.

Radar coverage across Southeast Wisconsin is great. Our area is covered well by the National Weather Service (NWS) radar in Sullivan. Other radars that serve the state include Green Bay, La Crosse, and one in Duluth, Minnesota which covers part of northwest Wisconsin. But the places in between those sites, like southwest Wisconsin, parts of central Wisconsin, and much of northern Wisconsin, aren't served well by the existing radar network.

Geoff Weller, Chief Meteorologist at Newswatch 12 in Rhinelander, knows all too well.

"To viewers, it looks like the storms falling apart on radar when it actually is not. It actually could be growing, but the radar can't see it," Weller explained.

In the summer, severe storms become hard to track, and in winter, snow events sometimes aren't even detected by radar.

Weller recalls a recent event where the radar wasn't providing clear, low-level coverage.

"We had to rely on ground truth reports, law enforcement, weather watchers, and camera networks. In 2022, that's kind of prehistoric."

But that will soon change.

"We're going to know that there's a tornado on the ground sooner than we have before," explained Tad Maguire, Vice President of Global Sales for Climavision.

Climavision is a private company that is working to install hundreds of radars across the country.

"Here in Wisconsin, we will be installing four radars. In addition to those that are already in place from the NWS, we'll be giving much, much better coverage to the western part of the state, west of Madison, and then up through the northwest, La Crosse and Eau Claire, and up to the Minnesota line," Maguire said.

The existing NWS network is comprised of about 160 radars nationwide. Climavision radars would fill the gaps between existing sites.

"For us, this is a game changer," Weller said.

Work in Wisconsin is expected to begin in early 2024.

"At the end of the day we're going to produce a much, much better forecast for everyone," Maguire said.

The radars are only part of Climavision's plan. Once all the radars are installed, which will take nearly four years, Climavision will use that data to create a high-resolution weather model. They hope it will aid in providing a superior weather forecast, allowing a more accurate look into the future.

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