The Department of Physical Sciences at the University of Helsinki has acquired a state-of-the-art polarimetric weather radar. The new radar is reserved exclusively for research. Its most important meteorological research target is the physics of rain clouds, and scientists intend to focus on snow and sleet in particular. Snowfall and its polarimetric measurements have hardly been studied anywhere else in the world, although in the Finnish conditions, for instance, snowfall is one of the key weather elements.
The first test measurements of the prototype radar built for the University’s radar laboratory provided good evidence for the potential of a polarisation weather radar. The largest road traffic catastrophe in the Helsinki metropolitan area took place on 17 March 2005, with several multiple pile-ups on all Helsinki. The new radar was just undergoing test runs and it immediately revealed the meteorological factors which led to the accidents.
Radar images showed that the road conditions before the accident were dry and cold with only slight snowfall. There was, however, supercooled water in the air, which made the road surfaces slippery immediately prior to the accidents. At the time of the accidents, a narrow zone of heavy snowfall arrived from the south, suddenly reducing visibility. In places, this was followed by a larger area of snowfall with a high content of supercooled water.
Minna Meriläinen | alfa
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