On the Radar: NSF Award Funds Project for Oceanic Research

Colorado State University has received a $1.3 million award from the National Science Foundation to develop an advanced state-of-the-art, ship-based polarimetric Doppler radar for open ocean research. This radar, known as SEA-POL will be directed by Steven Rutledge, Professor of Atmospheric Science and V. Chandrasekar, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Seventy-five percent of the world’s rainfall occurs over the open oceans. Studying oceanic storms and measuring the rainfall they produce with SEA-POL will allow scientists to better understand how tropical clouds and storms contribute to climate change. SEA-POL is expected to be deployed periodically on world class research ships operated by the U.S. which will make month to two month long cruises to various areas of the world’s oceans.

SEA-POL will utilize a dual-polarization technique, where both horizontal and vertically-polarized radar signals are transmitted and received by the radar. This same technology was pioneered at the university’s CSU-CHILL National Radar Facility, also directed by Rutledge and Chandrasekar. Today that same technology is used on the nation’s national radar network used to detect severe weather. The polarization technology improves rainfall estimation and provides information on the distribution of liquid and ice particles in clouds, information that is vital to improving our understanding of the global water cycle, air sea interaction and validating computer models of global precipitation.

“This will be a very challenging project, but in the end the new radar will enable a whole new area of scientific research on oceanic storms” said Rutledge.

SEA-POL, which will operate at CSU when not deployed on a ship, will help attract top-quality students to science and engineering, as the radar will be integrated into existing academic programs at the university.

“While the university has spearheaded the deployment of ship-based Doppler radars without the polarimetric technology in the past, SEA-POL provides researchers and students with the opportunity to be among the first to use this cutting-edge technology,” said Alan Rudolph, Vice President for Research at CSU.