A crowd of around 60 people gathered in Rainbow on Thursday to hear an update on the Rainbow Radar project, which is on track to be switched on early next year.
Representatives from the partner organisations visited the site south of Rainbow on Thursday morning for a ‘sod turning’ ceremony before hosting a public information and question-and-answer session at the Rainbow Bowling Club.
Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes was in the district to inspect the progress at the site and introduced herself to the crowd at the forum in Rainbow.
Site works for the $9.2 million project are progressing well with the base concrete slab having been poured recently. The 30-metre tower that will hold up the radar will be assembled on site from prefabricated sections within the next two months, with the radar itself to follow.
The radar – a dual polarisation Doppler radar – has been built in Germany and is currently in Melbourne awaiting the completion of preliminary site works.
Dr Andrew Tupper (pictured above) from the Bureau of Meteorology explained to the audience the advantages that the new radar will bring to the region and beyond.
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The current ‘blackhole’ between the Mildura and Mount Gambier radar sites will be nicely filled by the Rainbow Radar, particularly given the state-of-the-art technology employed in this site, that the other two sites do not currently have.
While not used for long-term forecasting, radar is used extensively for identifying what is happening in real-time.
Real-time radar imagery allows users to track approaching weather systems and predict more accurately where and when rain may fall, and hail and storms may hit.
This can be of vital importance for farmers, who often need to make weather-dependant decisions such as when to apply chemicals or fertiliser.
The radar presentation was followed by an informative weather presentation by Dale Grey from Agriculture Victoria’s Bendigo office.
He gave an overview of how rain bands form over the oceans north and west of Australia and make their way to us here in Victoria, and how ocean conditions thousands of kilometres away from us here in the Wimmera Mallee play a vital role in our rainfall.
Graphs and charts supported his seasonal outlook talk for the remainder of 2019.
The representatives of the organisations involved in the project – Dale Grey (Agriculture Victoria), Dr Andrew Tupper (BoM), Nichole Brinsmead (Group Exec. Data & Digital, BoM) and Melinda Knapp (Chair of Steering Committee, from Agriculture Victoria) – led by Justine Severin from Agriculture Victoria – answered questions from the audience before the afternoon tea was brought out by members of the Rainbow Bowling Club.
Wimmera Development Association and Regional Development Victoria are also partners in the project.
Naming the new radar
As for the name of the new radar – which has proven to be a topic of much discussion – the steering committee has decided that it will be known as the ‘Rainbow Radar’.
“Personally, I think it’s the coolest radar name in the country,” Dr Tupper said.
Many view the radar as being in the Mallee – as opposed to the Wimmera – as it sits on the northern side of the Pullut West Road, which follows the traditional boundary between the Wimmera and Mallee along the old Netting Fence.
The steering committee had considered ‘Wimmera Southern Mallee Radar’ but decided upon the much more concise Rainbow Radar name.
Could the radar become a canvas?
During the question and answer session at the end, it was asked whether the golf ball-like structure could become a canvas for an artwork, much like grain silos across the region.
The steering committee has discussed the idea of having a mural painted on the structure, although no decision has been made yet as the logistics and operational requirements need to be further considered.
”Better than Mildura, Mt Gambier”
The new dual polarisation Doppler radar will provide a better image of what weather is out there than the current Mildura and Mount Gambier radars, mostly due to the dual polarisation aspect of it.
By sending out horizontal and vertical radio waves, this unit will be able to better ascertain what exactly is out there – rain versus hail, for example.
When compared to the Mildura radar in particular, which is one of the oldest in the BoM’s radar network, Rainbow will provide a much better image. Mildura’s current radar is essentially at roof level and struggles at times with getting over the tree line. Rainbow has the clear advantage of being both on top of a hill and a 30-metre tower.
Planning is in progress however to relocate and upgrade Mildura’s radar within the next couple of years, after which it will be on par with Rainbow’s.
VIDEO: How does a weather radar work? - BoM
Below is a short video by the BoM that gives a good explanation of how radar sites work.