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article imageWind Farms in Upstate New York Interfering with Weather Radar

By Debra Myers     Oct 14, 2009 in Environment
In upstate New York, wind farms are interfering with the National Weather Service Doppler radars, making it difficult to interpret the data that they are seeing. The wind turbines spinning blades are creating false data that is misinterpreted as storms.
Syracuse, NY - The National Weather Service has encountered a problem with their Doppler radars because of wind farms. These massive turbines with their turning blades are reflecting some of the radar's signal, causing false data that can be misinterpreted as precipitation or winds. The bigger concern is that lake effect storms coming off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are being shown as stronger than they are or the wind farms behave like a wall not letting the forecasters see any incoming storms.
Bill Hibbert, a meteorologist and radar specialist with the weather service in Buffalo explains that, "It's more of an annoyance than a critical issue." He added, "But it's a growing problem, and there's not really anything that can be done about it right now."
Normally, radar software can filter out buildings, cell towers, mountain ridges and other stationary objects on radar screens. However, since the radar searches for motion from storms, there is no way to filter out the turbine's rotating blades. Currently, the weather service is working on creating new software to filter out the motion of the turbines.
Hibbert told the Associated Press that what the weather service is now educating everyone, specifically developers and the nearby communities, about the problem. The National Weather Service now has a web page devoted to Doppler radar interference.
A spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group, is also educating their members about the issue and making sure that any potential effects are considered while preparing for new projects.
The interference that is of concern in upstate New York comes from wind farms located in Erie and Wyoming counties. These are located 20 to 35 miles from the radar station in Cheektowaga. The 195-turbine Maple Ridge Wind Farm is less than 10 miles from the radar in Montague, on the snowy Tug Hill Plateau in Lewis County. The Montague radar is also used by the weather service in Albany, Binghamton and Burlington Vt., Hibbert said.
Although weather forecasters are careful when watching radar over the areas with wind farms, it's likely that the radar images seen on TV and the Internet are going to be misinterpreted by those who are unfamiliar with the radar issues regarding wind farms.
Arctic winds that blow across lakes with warmer water creates lake effect storms that can dump substantial precipitation, primarily snow. Montague on Lake Ontario's eastern side annually receives more than 33 feet of snow because of lake effect snow storms.
More about Wind farms, Radar, Upstate new york
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