In 2007 our weather radar network looked like the picture below. The dark part of the circle is the area / range in which the radar is very accurate and the lighter range is useful as a heads-up. New modern radars send out both vertical and horizontal scans allowing us to not only determine the presence of rain but the volume as well. This is really handy for forecasting and tracking storms and severe weather.
Severe weather forecasts are free to everyone and we provide this information to all media BUT they don’t have to use it. If you have an email address, one assumes if you are reading this blog you do, then you can register to receive warnings and watches direct to your email for the areas you wish to receive. Weather Watches are a “heads-up” ,we are not completely 100% sure something is coming, it’s your choice to be safe or sorry. They are usually published a couple of days before the main event.
By the end of 2012 the network increased to cover most of NZ with some patches in Nelson, Otago, several islands and upper Manawatu / Rangitikei / Wairarapa region.
One of the key questions often asked is, who pays for these and why aren’t they on metservice.com in real-time?
Each radar costs around NZ$3m to install and then we have a number of operating costs e.g. data communications and maintenance. The payback to NZ is obvious, just ask the insurance council the cost of one storm, or a farmer the cost of losing his best ewes, the cost of a life…the list goes on. As the ferryman says “someone has to pay” but in this case it is a bit more than two gold coins.
The radars are partly funded by the NZ government and partly by our customers e.g television, large construction firms, industry groups, local government etc etc. If the radars were fully funded by the government we would give everything away for free, but we can’t do this as we would lose all external revenue and this would end up costing the tax-payer more. If you did the financial analysis the best decision would be to fully government fund the radars and provide all data for free, assuming NZ would benefit, BUT this also assumes our government has endless amounts of money. Now I am not a politician but I know they don’t have endless amounts of money so if we receive more, someone else has to miss out. I do believe that when we are in better times that we will get funding to complete the Weather Radar Network.