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WSR-88D Dual Polarization Background and Status


The NWS Statement of Need 04-004 (Additional Radar Observational Data) identified the NWS need for additional and improved radar data to improve support to severe weather warnings, flood and flash flood warnings, and general forecast services.

The NEXRAD tri-agencies (DOC, DOD, DOT) have determined that adding Dual Polarization capability to the WSR-88D will provide mission benefits that aid in meeting the NWS Government Performance and Results Act. These benefits include improved hail detection for severe thunderstorm warnings, improved rainfall estimation for flood and flash flood warnings, rain/snow discrimination for winter weather warnings and advisories, data retrieval from areas of partial beam blockage to improve services in mountainous terrain, and removal of non-weather artifacts such as birds and ground clutter to improve overall data quality for algorithms and numerical model input.

In the spring of 2003 the National Weather Service (NWS) Office of Science and Technology (OST) tasked the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) with providing data collection and analysis to support a WSR-88D dual polarization decision briefing to the NEXRAD Program Management Committee (NPMC). The JPOLE (Joint Polarization Experiment) project was designed to evaluate the engineering design and data quality of the polarimetric KOUN WSR-88D radar and demonstrate the utility of polarimetric radar data and products to operational users. The NSSL JPOLE experiment demonstrated the performance improvements dual polarization provided in rainfall estimates, hydrometeor classification, and general data quality. For more general information on JPOLE and polarmetric radars go to:

A competitive Firm Fixed Price Contract was awarded to L3 Communications (teamed with Baron Services & Essco) on September 24, 2007 for the upgrade of the WSR-88D Weather Radars with Dual Polarization capability.


The deployment of the Dual Polarization modification to “single-thread” sites (one RDA per site) is underway. See the “Deploy Schedule” and “Deployment Status” sections of this web site located at: for further information/details.

The development of the Dual Polarization modification for “dual-thread sites (two RDAs per site) is in progress. Deployment of the modification to field sites should start in 2013.