Kingdom updating weather surveillance system

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has launched a multimillion riyal project to set up 122 new weather stations and install 11 weather surveillance radars (WSR).

It forms part of an ambitious plan to expand the weather forecast system, with the main objective of warning the public about natural disasters like heavy rainfall and cyclones, Tarek Al-Samawi, a spokesman for the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), said Wednesday.

Al-Samawi said the weather stations would make forecasts about extreme weather conditions and study weatherrelated issues on land and at sea.

“The network of WSRs will be expanded to 21, including 11 new radars to cover the whole country,” he added. The Kingdom has mainly installed Doppler digital radar systems that deliver weather information in crisp detail.

As well as the existing 42 stations in the Kingdom, the new stations would help provide full information for weather forecasts.

The project, under the supervision of PME chief Prince Turki bin Nasser, is considered very important as natural disasters associated with torrential rains, thunderstorms, strong winds and abnormal temperatures are predicted in the region in the near future.

Moreover, frequent cloudbursts and changing weather conditions in the western part of the Kingdom have continued to wreak havoc.

Last month, torrential rains killed at least 10 people in Jeddah and caused hundreds of millions of riyals in damage. Also, several people were killed and hundreds injured in flash floods on Nov 25, 2009 when heavy rainfall lashed the coastal city. Al-Samawi said that he was

A PME official said that a number of people were being trained to handle such a huge network of weather

forecast apparatus.

not aware of the cost.

He, however, pointed out that 14 weather stations would be set up in the Red Sea and eight of them in Gulf waters. Al-Samawi pointed out that the PME’s plan would increase the number of WSRs to 21, including the existing 10 radars.

A WSR, he said, is used “to locate precipitation, calculate its motion, estimate its type — rain, snow, hail etc — and forecast its future position and intensity.”

These new stations and radars are in addition to a few weather stations and WSRs owned and operated privately or by some government agencies. Modern weather radars are mostly pulse-Doppler radars, capable of detecting the motion of rain droplets, in addition to the intensity of the precipitation.

The WSR functions to detect atmospheric phenomena by sending out electromagnetic signals.

Many objects reflect the radar beam, most notably rain droplets, ice crystals and snowflakes. The measurements taken by radars that are operational in the Kingdom include temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind speed, wind direction and precipitation amounts.

Wind measurements are taken as free of other obstructions as possible, while temperature and humidity measurements are kept free from direct solar radiation.

When asked about the technical expertise required to handle such a huge network of weather forecast apparatus, a PME official said that a number of people were being trained as weather experts and meteorologists to deal with changing weather conditions and ensure public security from natural disasters. There is an urgent need to enroll more Saudi graduates to the training program, he said.

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