A month-long process to move Bowman’s radar finally ended last week when it arrived at its resting spot at the new Bowman airport.
The massive structure, which sat at the previous airport since 1997, has played a pivotal role in the region’s weather modification program. As of last week, it’s back up and running after being taken out of service in preparation for its relocation.
The radar was shutdown Sept. 16 and was down for about a month while crews readied the advanced electronic equipment for the move. The radar’s owner, the North Dakota State Water Commission, had to get contractors in line for the electrical work, crane service and technician service.
A building at the new airport was constructed with the sole purpose to house the radar’s transmitter and computer equipment.
The radar provides coverage for the southwestern part of North Dakota, for southeast Montana and northwestern South Dakota where coverage from the National Weather Service offices in Bismarck, Rapid City and Billings don’t reach.
“Bowman really helps to fill that void,” said Darin Langerud, director of the North Dakota Atmospheric Resource Board in Bismarck, a division of the state water commission.
When the radar operates, the antenna moves around in a 360-degree sweep. Depending on the scan strategy being used, the radar steps up the dish to point up a little bit further, several times, taking a mosaic of the entire sky.
But its not pointed straight up, 90 degrees. That’s where a thing called the cone of silence comes into play. It sits over the radar, like a shadow, not allowing radar images from that area, but Langerud cautioned that it’s very small and almost unnoticeable to people that aren’t familiar with it.
“It’s not terribly material to the coverage of the radar over that location,” he said.
The radar was first moved to Bowman in 1997 to support its cloud seeding operations, utilizing two planes at the Bowman airport. When the new airport was built, in discussion with the airport board, they felt it was important to have that facility located at the new airport as well, “and we felt the same way,” Langerud said.
The radar was previously used in Bismarck as property of the National Weather Service. It was used for about 20 years until the next-gen systems were deployed around the country. It was ultimately taken out of service and acquired by the state’s water commission.
The tall, white structure had operated year-round since 2010, after agreement with eight surrounding counties agreed to help sponsor operations and maintenance costs. That keeps the radar turning year-round instead of just the summer months when the cloud seeding operations are ongoing.
Moving the radar to its new site will have minimal impact on its coverage, only relocating about five miles. It’ll simply cover a little more to the east and a little less of the west.
While the radar does provide traditional services, its not integrated with the National Weather Service. That means, when a person goes on to the Weather Channel or any other weather forecasting service, they won’t see Bowman radar’s images. Instead, those come from an automated weather observation station in Hettinger. Such radars are operated by the NWS or the Department of Defense, depending where they’re located.
Still, anybody can retrieve the Bowman weather radar’s data by visiting the water commission’s website atwww.swd.nd.gov.