New radar for Met Service after 17 years

From Microwave to Doppler Radar – A gigantic leap forward in advance weather warning

WEATHER-WORN OLD RADAR (1977 – 2002)

Mauritius first experience in the use of weather goes back to 1977 one radar to Mauritius and three to Madagascar. WMO under its Tropical Cyclone Committee of the South-West Indian Ocean had urged the installation of radars for cyclone surveillance. The funds were channelled under a UNDP Disaster Mitigation scheme. The international community had been traumatised by the loss of life of some 300 000 people in Bangladesh 1970 cyclone Bhola.

The microwave band Radar of the WSR series was manufactured in USA and training was provided.

The manufacturers had indicated a maximum lifetime of 10 years and after which no spares would be guaranteed.

Technicians from Met Services kept the system operational by swapping spares of different origins including Korea and China.

A radar engineer called for the strengthening of the infrastructure at Trou aux Cerfs and upgrading the electronics from off-the-shelf components. The proposal was not accepted.

By the turn of century when US Weather Service replaced all its radars of this series by modern ones, Mauritius Met Service had negotiated and obtained an entire radar dismantled and packed in boxes. However the shipping cost turned out to be prohibitive.

By 2002 fatigue resulting from wind stress had shaken the dome structure, loosened the bolts and caused the dome to leak.

Working under such conditions with thousands of volts was hazardous.

By 2007, the request for a new weather radar was lodged with JICA, the Japanese aid agency.
France was invited to install its second radar in the North of Reunion but they could not accede. 

Several cyclones and major weather system were successfully tracked. One well-known was cyclone Claudette (1979) that was tracked for more than 150km. Both the time and place of landfall was predicted correctly.

NEW S-BAND DOPPLER RADAR (2019 -…)

Following the catastrophic flood of 30 March 2013 when an unprecedented 11 people died, the authorities saw the need for a radar. The Japanese Parliament agreed to provide funding for a new S-Band radar though Mauritius as a Middle Income Country did not qualify for such assistance.

The memorandum of understanding was signed on 6 June 2013.and the radar was expected to be operational in 2015.

The new radar was inaugurated on 03 April 2019 and provided a sophisticated tool for monitoring cyclones and weather systems, for quantifying and predicting rainfall and flood potential of rains as well as for research purposes. The Meteorological Services is now uniquely placed to provide advance warnings for threatening weather systems approaching Mauritius.

In conjunction with the radar in Reunion, Mauritius can advantageously have a longer distance watch from the West and the North West. Likewise, Reunion will have a longer view to the East.

It is still important not to oversell the possibilities of the radar.