WIU Students Get Rare Chance to use Mobile Radar

Sep 17, 2013

Some Western Illinois University students are getting the chance to use high tech research tools most often reserved for “tornado chasers.”

WIU Meteorology Professor Redina Herman applied to the National Science Foundation for her students to be able to use the DOW or Doppler on Wheels.

Something she called a "rare chance."

The DOW outside Tillman Hall on the WIU Campus.
Credit SSS

The mobile radar dish is usually used for tornado and hurricane research, but between those projects it’s sent around the country for education and outreach.

Herman said it will be at Western for the next three weeks and teams of students will use it to look at things beyond just weather, including wind farms.

"They're going upstream and downstream of the wind farm to see how far the influence is and then another one (is) going out to Havana and Pekin, the power plants out there, looking at emissions coming from the smokestacks," Herman said.

Ab Pfeiffer with the Center for Severe Weather Research, or CSWR, came to Western to train the teams of students how to use the DOW for their research.

Pfieffer said that he sees many of the same types of research at different universities, but the students at Western did something especially smart by making plans for whatever the weather brings.

"We've been to universities before where they're really hoping there is going to be precipitation and then  in that whole three week period it just so happens to be dry, we actually like to  joke sometime at CSWR that the DOW scares the weather away," Pfeiffer said.

Pfieffer’s partner Paul Robinson also from the CSWR, said one of biggest challenges was just getting the DOW to WIU.

It’s based in Boulder, Colorado and Robinson left two days ago as the region was still being hit hard by flooding and mudslides.

After leaving western, Robinson said the DOW will go to students in Honolulu.