31 March 2010
South Africa is to spend R240-million on a new weather radar network, incorporating 12 new Doppler radars, that will yield better prediction of severe weather, wind and dust movement across South Africa and some of its neighbouring countries.
The three-year project by the South African Weather Service to upgrade its radar systems – currently over 30 years old – will create a substantially improved weather observation network that meets contemporary needs.
The new weather radar network, consisting of 12 Doppler weather radars, will play a vital role in enhancing adaptation tools and products, such as the Severe Weather Forecast project and the Flash Flood Guidance System, that minimise loss of life and damage to property.
“[W]e must ensure that the Weather Service remains at the cutting edge of meteorological technological development,” Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said in Pretoria this week.
At the completion of the project, South Africa will have a total of 18 weather radar systems.
SA weather radar network
The new radars will complement the weather service’s existing infrastructure network of 1 400 automatic weather stations, automatic rainfall stations, a sophisticated lightning detection network, computer infrastructure, satellite receiving equipment and weather radars.
Although useful, the existing radars lack Doppler capabilities. With the introduction of Doppler radars, the movement of storms can also be detected, providing better “now-casting” during severe storms.
The system can also predict the path of a storm and issue warnings to the people in its path. It will also detect wind movement in clear air, as well as movement of dust in the air.
Sonjica said the new radar system will ensure complete coverage of neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Swaziland.
“The new system is world-class, superior to most of the systems used in other Western countries,” she said. “We cannot afford to be left out of the scientific progress that will assist our communities in the long term, especially with the major concerns of climate change now upon us.”