Radar system may give more accurate forecasts


STORM SURGES, wave heights and tidal currents influencing extreme weather events around the coastline may be forecast more accurately if a radar system developed in Galway proves successful.

The system has been installed in Galway Bay by scientists with the NUI Galway (NUIG) Ryan Institute – the first such deployment in North Atlantic European waters.

When extended, it should produce the most detailed charts of surface currents to date on this 7,800km coastline, and the results will also help to assess trends in climate change.

The system transmits maps of the surface currents and provides details of the height and direction of waves from the shoreline directly to the Ryan Institute on NUIG’s campus.

Galway Bay’s environment is particularly challenging, as the Aran Islands location at the bay mouth influences a complex pattern of incoming tides, according to Dr Mike Hartnett, leader of the Ryan Institute’s modelling and informatics group.

“Data from the radar is helping us to overcome some of those challenges,” he says.

The system comprises two antennae, on Mutton Island in inner Galway Bay and farther west at Spiddal. Every half hour, the radars use acoustic techniques to “remotely sense” the bay surface.

“Wireless radio communications are used to enable the system to transmit maps of the surface currents back to NUIG,” Dr Hartnett says. “This is high resolution data, providing information on surface currents every 300 metres. Also, the radars provide wave height and direction data at selected locations.”

Hartnett’s modelling and informatics group is working with the IBM Smarter Cities Technology Centre in Dublin to improve model forecasts, using data gleaned from the radar and meteorological information.