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Meteorologist Gary England joined a host of atmospheric scientists on March 9 when the latest advancement in radar technology was unveiled in Chickasha. Despite brisk winds and 40-degree temperatures, the ceremony drew nearly 100 people on the Owens Flag Plaza at the University of Science and Arts, a few steps from the tower where the first radar was installed later that day.


USAO President John Feaver hosted the ceremony and introduced Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, associate vice president of research at the University of Oklahoma. Droegemeier is one of the world’s foremost atmospheric scientists.


Droegemeier is a professor of meteorology at OU, as well as deputy director of the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). (What is CASA? Click here. More on CASA. Click here.) He is on the National Science Board and speaks on weather around the world.


Explaining how the radar works was Dr. Michael Zink, a research scientist at the University of Massachusetts. He is a key designer and builder of the radars being installed across Southwest Oklahoma. On the platform was Mike Sarcione, an engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, a key industrial partner of CASA. (Is it safe? Click here.)


Also speaking at the event was Mike Foster, meteorologist in charge at the Norman Area National Weather Service Forecast Office. Chickasha’s own Steve Chapman praised the new technology as a tool that will help local emergency crews save lives.


Oklahoma’s favorite meteorologist was on hand to endorse the high-tech advancement. Gary England, chief meteorologist at KWTV-News 9 in Oklahoma City, addressed the crowd and answered media questions a half-hour afterwards. England has long been a fan of new technology and is the author of four books on weather. England holds the distinction of being the person who initiated, with Enterprise Electronics, development of the world's first commercial Doppler radar.


“USAO is delighted to host this important scientific announcement,” Feaver said. “Protecting more people from severe weather is the ultimate goal, and we applaud the work of scientists in advancing technology to preserve human life.”


Last year in the spring, USAO welcomed Droegemeier to discuss with Chickasha leaders the launch of this new technology designed to advance weather prediction significantly. USAO has been selected as the north corner of a testbed created by the National Weather Center in Norman.


The radar is being developed as part of the CASA program, a joint effort of the University of Oklahoma, University of Massachusetts Amhurst, Colorado State University and the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez.


The radar now sits on the top of USAO’s Onenet microwave tower, just behind Troutt Hall. Three other radars are being installed in Rush Springs, Lawton and Cyril to form a diamond-shaped testbed.


Droegemeier said the new radar will see better and lower than “Doppler” or “Nexrad” radars, which suffer a low blind spot because of the curvature of the earth.


So why is the Chickasha area important in this research? According to Droegemeier, the area between Lawton, Rush Springs, Chickasha and Cyril sees an average of 50 severe storms per year with an average of two tornado touchdowns a year.


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