Advantage, BBC, thanks to the rain radar


By Barry Fox A FEW radar operators from RAF airborne early-warning aircraft have taken their annual leave to coincide with Wimbledon fortnight so that they can help the BBC anticipate rain at the tennis championships. The operators are working for David Morton, who runs RaceNet Radar Systems of Marlow, Buckinghamshire. “We can’t stop the rain coming. But we can predict when it will arrive to within a couple of minutes, so the BBC can reschedule its programmes,” says Morton. RaceNet has developed a local weather radar based on the hardware used on supertankers, but it needs skilled operators to work with the proprietary software. A 2.5-metre antenna, mounted on top of the 75-metre crane that the BBC uses for bird’s-eye camera shots, sends out a 9-gigahertz radar signal. The signal bounces off any clouds that are heavy with water, which are displayed on a computer screen as yellow patches. As a cloud moves, it leaves a blue tail across the screen which shows which direction it is moving in. After plotting a cloud and its tail for six minutes, the team of five operators calculates its speed and direction, and predicts where it will be in 45 minutes and how long it will take to move on. If the Wimbledon courts look a likely target, the team alerts the BBC’s Television Centre in London,
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