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Weather Radar WSR-88D

Description of the radar set, tactical-technical characteristics
Jacksonville, Florida NWS Nexrad WSR-88D radar tower
(click to enlarge: 600·878px = 59 kByte)

Figure 1: Jacksonville, Florida NWS Nexrad WSR-88D radar tower

frequency: 2,700 - 3,000 MHz
pulse repetition time (PRT):
pulse repetition frequency (PRF): 320 … 450, … 1300 Hz
pulsewidth (τ): 1.57 and 4.57 µs
receiving time:
dead time:
peak power: 700 … 750 kW
average power:
instrumented range: 460 km
range resolution: 47 m or 135 m
beamwidth: 0,96° (2.7 GHz)
to 0,88° (3.0 GHz)
display levels: 15
antenna rotation: 3 rpm

Weather Radar WSR-88D

The WSR-88D (Weather Surveillance Radar) is a Doppler radar, introduced in 1988. In addition to obtaining intensity and location of weather cells, the WSR-88D makes use of the Doppler shift to determine radial velocities of individual cells. In velocity display mode, the WSR-88D is capable of determining significant wind shear as one might find in the tightly rotating column of a tornadic storm. By using the intensity mode and velocity mode together, users can determine much more information about a storm than was capable with previous radars. Mesoscale rotations which typically indicate intense thunderstorms are discernable in the velocity mode, and this enhances forecast leadtimes for the onset of severe weather. The sensitivity is about 0 dBZE at a range of 50 km. The reporting interval is a complete volume scan every 6 minutes for 15 different elevation angles.

Characteristics of the WSR-88D radar are as follows:[1]

As of 2013, all 163 [2] WSR-88D systems have been upgraded to dual polarization. The first operational WSR-88D went into service in 1992 at Sterling, Virginia. The contractor who built the system was Unisys (Sperry and Burroughs merged to form Unisys in 1986).


  1. NOAA Radar Operations Center
  2. the ROC tech info page says there are 160 systems but their Level 2 data page says there’s 163 systems