NEXRAD opponents argue efficiency
By Jesse Phelps
As the battle for Sulphur Mountain
heats up once again, opponents are crying foul. In the past,
much of the rhetoric surrounding the debate centered on potential
health risks from the microwave beam sporadically shot out of
the tower, but now, opponents say the problem isn't what the
tower does but what it doesn't do.
A document provided to the Ojai Valley News by the Ventura County
Citizens Against Radar Emissions states, "Since the Sulphur
Mountain NEXRAD began operating and its data (became) incorporated
into forecasts by meteorologists in the Los Angeles Weather Forecasting
Office, it has failed to warn of flash floods nearly 50 percent
of the time. Of 12 flood events in the El Niño year of
1998, either no or insufficient warning time was given for five
Milton Kramer is a consultant to VCCARE, most famous locally
as the man who ran the campaign against the infamous Weldon Canyon
Dump. Kramer says the main problem with the tower is its elevation.
"The preliminary NEXRAD site survey for the Los Angeles
area stated that the Suphur Mountain Radar, in order to avoid
anomalous propogations, needed to be placed at over 2,000 feet,"
said Kramer. "As a result, the Sulphur Mountain NEXRAD was
placed at 2,750 feet. The height of the inversion, where warmer
air meets cooler air in the atmosphere, is 2,000 feet, according
to the site survey." Kramer explained that the inversion
actually varies considerably, going as low as 100 feet in winter,
and that means the tower misses lower elevation events.
"Moreover, and more importantly," said Kramer, "when
there is inclement weather, there is no inversion." As common
sense dictates that floods are most likely in "inclement
weather," the tower would seem rather useless. But the problems,
according to Kramer and data provided by VCCARE, don't end there.
The Sulphur Mountain NEXRAD is one of many in a system of interlocking
towers throughout the Southern California area. Partially because
of the Sulphur Mountain tower's inaccuracy and partially because
the coverage of a similar tower in the Santa Ana Mountains is
limited, Kramer said major problems exist in coverage. As shown
on the accompanying graph, areas where there should be overlap
of signals are bare of beams, creating serious problems for what
Kramer describes as densely populated areas of West Los Angeles.
"There's a huge gap to the south-southwest at lower elevations,"
he said. "Our position is that the storms are moving through
that area and that accounts for why there have been so many flash
floods without advanced warning. The rain coming from the south-southwest
moves overland through those gaps, so it's never detected."
Communities directly affected include Malibu, Santa Monica, El
Segundo, Hermosa, Torrance and Brentwood.
Kramer says VCCARE "retained a man, a Ph.D. in meterorology,
who at the time was also the head of the geospacial center in
Monterey. He was a 20-year radar consultat to NASA. He did a
report. His report stated that you didn't need the Sulphur Mountain
Tim McClung of the National Weather Service's local office in
Oxnard was unavailable for comment. Meanwhile, Kramer said the
tower is not an evil in and of itself and he's not sure why the
National Weather Service is so opposed to moving it, if it isn't
working where it is.
"We would agree that the Doppler radar is the most effective
system they've had," said Kramer, who served many years
in the military and has a background with Doppler technology.
"I understand some of what it does. That's what makes it
so puzzling that there should be such a failure rate with that
kind of technology being used."
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
|Opponents of the
NEXRAD radar tower installation contend there is a gap in coverage
between Sulphur Mountain and Santa Ana at the upper elevations,
leading to a lack of warning in Western Los Angeles County.