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While NOAA forecasters warned residents to evacuate the Texas Coast, researchers moved into position to scan the eyewall of Hurricane Ike.
A crew from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma rode out the storm as they recorded its power in their anchored vehicles.
Positioned north of Lake Jackson, Texas, the crew operated the NO-XP — the new mobile dual-polarized Doppler radar built by NSSL and OU to study precipitation processes as well as severe weather — as Hurricane Ike made landfall in Galveston during the early morning hours of Sept. 13.
This was the first time dual-polarized Doppler radar data had been collected on a land-falling hurricane eyewall. Radars with dual-polarization capabilities — radio waves sent out both horizontally and vertically — can more accurately determine precipitation types and amounts.
The dual-polarization capability on the NO-XP will provide additional details on the microphysics of storms — improving the quality and accuracy of forecasts and warnings of hazardous weather.
Researchers positioned it on the edge of the western portion of the eyewall where the maximum wind gust at their location reached 84 mph. Combined with the western radar NOAA has at the Houston Weather Forecast office, it created a dual-Doppler region that encompassed most of the western half of Ike’s eye.
Another mobile radar, operated by the University of Alabama-Huntsville, was on the north side of Houston and collected data on the eastern half of Ike’s eye. Dual-polarization data was collected throughout the entire storm. NSSL’s field command vehicle and a mobile mesonet (a set of weather sensors) also were in Texas providing support.
Researchers will be reviewing and analyzing the data collected during hurricane Ike over the next several months and comparing the mobile radar data with the data from the stationary radar.