Colorado State University Receives $1.4 Million Nsf Grant to Enhance Its National Weather Radar Facility

Colorado State University will move into the forefront of world weather radar research with a $1.4 million major research instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant is enhancing Colorado State’s CHILL National Radar Facility by funding the development of an antenna that will greatly improve the accuracy of radar mapping of precipitation type and amount.

The CHILL Radar facility was awarded the NSF grant for the development of a new type of high-performance radar antenna, known as a dual-offset Gregorian antenna. Colorado State will be the first university in the world to own and operate this highly advanced weather radar antenna technology. The new antenna will replace the current parabolic reflector antenna at the CHILL Radar research facility located near Greeley, Colo.

"There is no other 9-meter, dual-offset antenna available for a meteorological radar anywhere in the world," said V.N. Bringi, professor of electrical engineering and principal investigator of the project. "This will make CHILL the premier facility for advanced weather radar research."

Colorado State’s CHILL facility, funded by the National Science Foundation and the state of Colorado, supports the academic and atmospheric research community by providing data and evaluating new techniques and technologies for remote sensing of the atmosphere. The facility is a collaboration of the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and its Department of Atmospheric Science.

"The impact of the new high-performance antenna will place Colorado State’s CHILL Radar facility at the forefront of meteorology for at least the next decade," said Steven Rutledge, scientific director of the facility and head of the atmospheric science department. "It will enable us to pinpoint more precise rainfall and precipitation measurements and allow scientists to conduct new levels of weather-related research."

With the new system, intense rainfall that produces flash floods can be better estimated and mapping rain and hail storms will become more accurate. The advanced technology also can distinguish among the various types of precipitation particles in both summer and winter storms allowing scientists to locate, track and research even the most minute precipitation elements.

The CHILL facility is operated as a national weather radar research center under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. It is a national and international educational and basic research facility, meaning that other universities and scientific organizations can use the facility to conduct research and collaborate on projects. The new antenna will improve research capabilities not only at Colorado State but for scientists throughout the United States and beyond.

According to electrical engineering professor and co-principal investigator V. Chandrasekar, the new radar technology will also be used by undergraduate and graduate students at Colorado State as part of their academic programs. "This device will expose students to new technology and allow them to gain hands-on experience using the latest in radar remote-sensing research," he said.The National Weather Service currently has a system of more than 150 Doppler radars that was established in the early 1990s, but is looking to upgrade all of the Dopplers with new technology developed by Colorado State. Basic research performed at Colorado State will provide much needed information required by the NWS to make the transition.

The radar is being developed and built in collaboration with Colorado State by world-leading antenna designer Vertex RSI of Kilgore, Texas. The project will take two years to complete and is the largest antenna of its type ever constructed by the company. Once assembled and tested, it will be shipped from the company’s manufacturing facility in Texas to Colorado and set up at Colorado State’s CHILL National Radar Facility. More information about the CHILL facility can be found on the Web at