Ncar’s Next-gen Airborne Radar will have Unmatched Ability to Peer Deep Inside Storms


A next-generation airborne radar designed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) that could revolutionize our ability to observe, understand, and ultimately predict high-impact weather events has received $91.8 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The Airborne Phased Array Radar (APAR) will improve on existing radar by allowing scientists to sample the atmosphere at higher spatial resolution and probe more deeply into storms, ultimately painting a more detailed picture of storm dynamics and microphysics. APAR will also be an extremely flexible platform. Its agile scanning capability can switch radar beam directions almost instantaneously, allowing scientists to scan the atmosphere in any direction, a contrast to traditional fixed-direction airborne scanning radars.

The rich data generated from APAR will give forecasters critical information for better predicting a range of high-impact weather events, including hurricanes, atmospheric rivers, tornadoes, derechoes, and blizzards.

“As society struggles with an increase in devastating extreme weather events, it’s imperative that the Earth system science community has the tools it needs to provide the actionable information communities need to become more resilient,” said NCAR Director Everette Joseph. “APAR is one such tool. We’ve been working on this important technology for more than a decade, and I’m thrilled that we will be able to put it to use serving society.

NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Other project partners include NOAA, Ball Aerospace, Colorado State University, State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook, University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Oklahoma.

“The APAR project is a prime example of how NSF is bringing science, engineering, and technology to bear on the most important and pressing challenges our nation faces,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. “By strategically investing in groundbreaking infrastructure like the Airborne Phased Array Radar, NSF is helping to revolutionize the future of U.S. weather forecasting, which is critical to our national and economic security.”