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National Weather Service: Sulphur Mountain Radar Performance

AIMD-99-7 Published: Oct 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1998.
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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Rose Institute of Claremont McKenna College's study on the National Weather Service's (NWS) Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) located on Sulphur Mountain, California, focusing on whether the Sulphur Mountain NEXRAD: (1) can provide timely and accurate information for warning of flash floods; and (2) is intended to provide low-level data necessary to predict wind shear for Los Angeles International Airport.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce Since the Sulphur Mountain NEXRAD is not always available as required, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Assistant Administrator for Weather Services to determine all the reasons why the Sulphur Mountain NEXRAD is not meeting the 96-percent availability requirement and to correct the problems so that the radar is available as required.
Closed – Implemented
NWS agreed with the recommendation and implemented several key changes at the Sulphur Mountain site that improved the radar availability above the 96-percent minimum requirement. For example, specific high failure components were identified and replaced, producing a much more stable environment; a new plan was implemented to expedite delivery of spare parts; a revised notification and reporting policy for electronics technicians was implemented to reduce trouble response time, and a remote terminal was installed to diagnose and restart the system. As a result of these changes, radar availability exceeded 98 percent from June 1998 through May 1999, according to data from NWS's Office of Systems Operations.

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