NEXRAD (Doppler) weather radar project
by Duane Ausherman
I did a spy job for SRI (Stanford Research International), and they liked the result, so they put me in charge of the road crew that surveyed for the NEXRAD project. That acronym stands for the Next Generation of Radar. You see it referred to on TV weather as Doppler Radar. Same stuff.
We surveyed more than 100 prospective NEXRAD sites around the country.
We had two rigs, and one was the travel trailer pulling a small trailer that contained our computer equipment. The other was a heavy-duty pickup that pulled the trailer holding the tower.
The tower is pneumatic and could be raised to 125 feet. With it, we could survey both the horizon and the radar environment. The FCC had no database showing who was transmitting on what frequency in any part of the country. The FCC is responsible for issuing licenses for radio transmitters. Can you imagine a government agency that didn’t do their job?
Every transmitter in that frequency range is required to have an FCC license. Many didn’t, and it was our job to discover the direction and frequency. Some places were so cluttered with signals that there was no space in the spectrum for a powerful weather radar station.
This project was so political that it was very difficult to do the job correctly. We pulled up to one location in the Miami, Florida area and within a mile of our assigned testing spot, I could see several log-periodic antennas trained on Cuba. There was no way in the world that whatever agency was doing the snooping would tolerate our 50 kW of radar. That would jam it up big time. How come the person who did the pre-survey didn’t pick up on this? It was because the person doing that job knew nothing about radio. It wasn’t the only site that was wrong, and a 5th grader could have known better.
Many years later, I just happened to be in Dodge City, KS and met my good BMW friend, Jim Johnson. He brought up that we had met many years earlier when I was doing the auditing for a weather station in his district. He was the head of the weather station in Dodge City. I didn’t remember it at all. It is so interesting that our paths would cross under completely different venues.
He gave me a tour of the NEXRAD radar station that was built long after I had done the survey. This was the only doppler radar station that I have even toured.
Jim and I still communicate often.
Updated 15 Nov. 2019