The capabilities and limitations of using the ASR-9 as a terminal area precipitation sensor
The Airport Surveillance Radar (ASR-9) weather channel is an invaluable tool to air-traffic and flight management specialists. The precipitation data from this sensor is currently displayed on air-traffic specialists' radar scopes and is incorporated into the Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS). The data are used to determine optimum routes for aircraft operating in and near the tenninal airspace. Data from other terminal area precipitation sensors such as the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR) and the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) are also used for this same purpose. The primary advantage of using the ASR-9 as a precipitation sensor is its high update rate, e.g. thirty seconds versus about five minutes for TDWR and N EX RAD. The ASR-9 is also quite reliable, with limited down time. Finally, range folding is not a significant problem with this radar. However, during ITWS prototype testing over the past three years, we have identified several limitations of using this radar as a precipitation sensor. For one, the maximum reflectivity of cells can be significantly underestimated by the ASR-9 due to partial filling of its fan-shaped elevation beam and cell-to-cell spatial averaging. Also, the occurrence of underestimation seems to increase when the radar operates in circular polarization mode. In addition, we have analyzed cases where significant precipitation-induced attenuation has occurred. Finally, because most ASR-9s are located on the airport, rain cores developing aloft, above the airport, maybe underestimated or missed entirely. This paper focuses on the problems identified through the ITWS prototype testing.