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Balancing Needs Versus Budget When Selecting a Weather Radar

Understanding the Different Weather Radar Options

For any weather organization, a radar will likely serve as the most critical element of its meteorological network. A radar provides vital information on the formation, location, growth, and decay of moisture in the atmosphere. This data is fed into weather forecasting computer models, used by a meteorologist to make very near-term predictions, and plays a key role in creating effective early warning systems.

Radar is the best option available for detecting, observing, and analyzing weather conditions; however, it is not without some challenges. The science that all radars are based on has some limitations. Scientists at Baron are constantly looking for ways to overcome these limitations, but they are why training and understanding which radar to purchase is so important.

So What Weather Radar Options are Best for You?

A weather radar is the single most expensive tool available to a meteorological agency, often creating a dilemma during the purchase of the equipment. Cost is an important consideration during the purchase; however, if you let price weigh too heavily on your decision process it could cause you to purchase a radar that is not ideal for your agency or application. At Baron, we focus our attention on what solution will best support the agency and its operations, because we want to be lifelong partners with the global meteorological agencies we serve. We do not believe in providing a poor solution and leaving you on your own. Providing the best support to our meteorological partners is a strong part of the culture at Baron. Meteorologists represent a large share of Baron’s staff, so our culture is one of meteorological understanding.

It is important to know that choosing which radar is best for the application is extremely important. There are several things to consider when weighing cost versus performance. It is something that should not be taken lightly, as it can have an impact on the success of the investment.

A Baron klystron C-band in Kazakhstan, one of many weather radar options.

A Baron klystron C-band in Kazakhstan

Selecting the Right Transmitter

The three common types of transmitters are klystrons, magnetrons, and solid-state. Klystrons are known for strong signal stability and provide the best results in most applications; however, this is the most expensive solution. Magnetrons are based on similar technology and are an ideal balance between budgetary constraints and performance. A third transmitter, solid-state, continues to gain attention because of its significantly lower maintenance cost. However, with less power, it has limited range and resolution. The solid-state solution is a perfect example of budgetary needs outweighing the performance of the tool.

Frequency Matters

Of the many factors that can determine the solution that is best for your application, frequency tops the list. Radars come in three primary frequencies: X-Band, C-Band, and S-Band. Determining the ideal frequency depends on the conditions of the region the radar will be located and the needs and the need of the organization using it. X-band is the most sensitive, so it is perfect for the detection of sea breezes, dust storms, and light precipitation (such as snow and freezing drizzle/rain). It requires a smaller antenna, so it is a good solution for portable and research applications as well. C-Band sits in the middle of the pack with good overall capabilities in the various categories, but also not standing out from the others. Its antenna size is typically larger than X-Band, but it still can be done on a semi-transportable solution if needed. An S-Band frequency is the solution best suited for regions that are frequented by severe thunderstorms, tropical events, and heavy rainfall. This radar is also the largest as it requires a larger antenna, so a larger tower and radome are required which translates into an expensive solution.

There are many other factors to consider when purchasing a radar, and as I discussed at the beginning, cost becomes one of the largest factors. Therefore, it is so important to make sure you give sufficient weight to what radar is best for your agency and application. Remember that it will do you no good to have a solution that is lower in cost if it is not providing your meteorologists with information to provide quality forecasts.

A mobile Baron X-band radar positioned near the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Laura

A mobile Baron X-band radar positioned near the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Laura

Download your Free Ebook

For a deeper dive into selecting a radar that best meets your needs, download our “Prime Considerations for Weather Radar” ebook by filling out the form below.