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Melbourne BOM radar goes offline for six weeks, so how can weather watchers ride out the storm?

Simon Leo Brown, Thursday August 24, 2017 - 12:36 EST
ABC licensed image
The BOM's Melbourne radar in Laverton will be offline for six weeks. - ABC licensed

Weather watchers beware — you're about to be temporarily taken out of your comfort zone.

The Bureau of Meteorology's Melbourne radar at Laverton in the city's west is set to go offline for six weeks for an upgrade.

The radar will be offline from August 25 until early October.

Oh no! Why?

The upgrade, according to the BOM, will extend the radar's life by 10 years while expanding its capabilities.

It will be able to better detect severe weather using dual polarisation technology (more on that below).

And it's not just Melbourne — Adelaide's radar has already been upgraded, Brisbane's is currently offline, and Sydney's upgrade is due to start at the end of August.

But how will I get my weather fix?

Relax. You'll automatically be redirected to the BOM's Broadmeadows radar while Laverton is offline, whether you're using the app or the website.

The coverage of the Broadmeadows radar, which is primarily used for training, varies slightly from Laverton, senior forecaster Michael Logan said.

"It's also a different type of radar, so the rainfall images that will come from it will look a little different to the images that people are used to from the Laverton radar," he said.



If you haven't already, the Melbourne radar's downtime is a good opportunity to check out , which interactively maps current temperature, wind speed and rainfall readings.

MetEye also allows you to map out forecasts of projected temperatures, wind speeds and rainfall for up to seven days.

"You also can enter in your postcode and get all the information just for your point location," Mr Logan said.



There's also , which provides fresh, high-definition images from Japan's Himawari-8 weather satellite every 10 minutes.

The geostationary satellite (it stays in the same place over the Earth) flies 35,800 kilometres above the equator at a longitude of 140.8 degrees east, neatly covering Australia.

It feeds SatView with both infrared and Zehr images — artificially coloured infrared pictures developed by US meteorologist Dr Ray Zehr which are particularly useful for tracking tropical thunderstorms, if that's your thing.

SatView features information layers which you can turn on and off with a tick of a box, overlaying information such as roads, major cities, coastlines and state boundaries.

A recently added layer allows you to see where there has been recent lightning activity.

"It's just a nice addition to provide a bit more of a picture of what's actually happening," Mr Logan said.



OK, what's this dual polarisation technology then?

The Laverton radar currently sends out horizontal waves, allowing it to track the location and intensity of precipitation across greater Melbourne and beyond.

What the radar cannot currently do is tell the difference between rain and hail, for example, which in Melbourne would be handy.

When upgraded the radar will also send out vertical waves, which will allow it to also tell whether the weather being tracked is rain, snow, hail or bushfire smoke.

"If you're only sending out the horizontal pulse you're only getting 2D information," Mr Logan said.

"If you send out the vertical pulse as well it gives you more information about the shape and type of object that's falling out of the sky."

Unfortunately the new information won't be in a form that is easily accessible to the public.

"It's still going to need quite a level of expert interpretation," Mr Logan said.


- ABC

© ABC 2017

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