THE installation and commissioning of Doppler radars in Western Australia’s grain growing region needs to be fast tracked, according to South West MLC Nigel Hallett.
The Newdegate Doppler radar is now operational however Mr Hallett said the South Doodlakine and Watheroo sites should be fast-tracked before the 2017 due date.
Radar images showing real-time rainfall and wind conditions across the south-central Great Southern are now available online from the Newdegate radar.
The images, which include a ‘live’ rainfall intensity map, a map of wind speed towards or away the radar and a range of rainfall accumulations, are updated on the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) website every six minutes.
When commissioned the other two radars will broaden WA’s grainbelt coverage.
Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) expects the them to be operational by mid-2017, something Mr Hallett was keen to make happen sooner.
“We cannot wait until mid-2017 for all three Doppler radars to be operational. he wheels are turning far too slowly on the implementation of this important technology.
“The data produced by Doppler radar has the capability to predict possible heavy rains, thunderstorms and other types of extreme weather patterns (such as the recent devastating frost activity) and allows farmers to make better decisions about on-farm activities and get the most out of every acre they farm,” he said.
“The installation of new radar technology would also significantly increase the range and availability of crop risk mitigation insurance products, which protect farmers against bad weather events that are known to cause yield loss.
“General companies are now active in the area.”
Mr Hallett said it would be prudent of the State government to provide incentives such as reduced stamp duty to make crop insurance more affordable and provide an opportunity for agri-businesses to self-insure.
“Crop insurance, widely used around the world, would not only protect farmers’ equity and growers’ balance sheet for future years, it would dramatically reduce and potentially eliminate the need for exceptional circumstances funding for broadacre, horticulture, grazing and pastoral businesses.
“With strong competition across the industry and premiums becoming more competitive and affordable now is a good opportunity to show support for Western Australian agriculture,” Mr Hallett said.
DAFWA project manager John Connell said the new radars would provide landholders with valuable information to fine-tune crop and livestock strategies.
“Landholders will be able to combine this real time information with data from the department’s network of 129 weather stations across the grainbelt to make more informed decisions about, for example, time of sowing, fertiliser and chemical applications and moving livestock,” Mr Connell said.
“The radar information will also be a valuable addition to aviation safety and emergency services, which will now have more comprehensive information to better detect weather threats and improve responses.”
Doppler radar works by sending pulses of electromagnetic waves, which are reflected back to the radar by objects in their path, such as rainfall or dust.
The strength of the signal that the radar observes is related to the number and size of the raindrops that are illuminated in the radar beam.
BOM has developed sophisticated software to convert these signals into an estimate of rainfall intensity and wind speeds.
The rainfall maps for the Newdegate radar are calibrated in real-time using data from the network of automatic weather stations operated by DAFWA.
The three Doppler radar towers will support BOM’s existing network of five weather radars that service the grainbelt, including Geraldton, Perth, Kalgoorlie, Esperance and Albany.
BOM acting regional director Grahame Reader said the new additions would provide almost complete radar coverage over the grainbelt.
“This investment by the Western Australian government will significantly enhance the service provided by the bureau to the rural and regional community,” Mr Reader said.
“Residents and businesses from Northampton to Esperance and nearly all points in-between will soon have access to this valuable, real-time wind and rainfall information.
“This data will also value-add to the weather forecasting and warning systems, which will assist both farmers, as well as community services.”
DAFWA is also working to integrate the information from Doppler radars into new digital information tools, as part of its e-Connected Grainbelt Royalties for Regions project.
Doppler radar coverage is part of the project made possible by Royalties for Regions investment.
To view the Doppler radar images from Newdegate and other locations visit bom.gov.au and click on ‘radar’.
DAFWA’s weather station data can be accessed for free by visiting agric.wa.gov.au and clicking on ‘weather stations’ on the homepage.