Meteorological Service’s Radar Fixed After 2 Months on the Fritz

The 25-year-old radar is vital for identifying storm clouds, precipitation and outlying phenomena such as strong wind gusts and lightning storms

Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson
Walking through the rain in Bet Zayit, Jerusalem, March 2, 2019.
Walking through the rain in Bet Zayit, Jerusalem, March 2, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Nir Hasson
Nir Hasson

After a shutdown lasting two months, the rain-tracking radar of the Israel Meteorological Service was back in action on Wednesday after an engineering solution was found, enabling a bypassing of the faulty component that had knocked out the system. The radar provides and transmits ongoing information to the country’s aviation, communication and hydrological services.

The radar, which was purchased 25 years ago, stopped working at the end of December, at the height of the rainy season, following a failure in its transmitting system. The component that failed was unique to this particular radar. Since this model is no longer available on the market, it was not possible to replace it with a new one. Thus, the service’s chief engineer planned and manufactured a solution that bypassed the faulty component, together with engineers from Linkcom Telecom, Elta Systems, Ofek Communications and an Air Force workshop for electronic equipment.

In tandem with the repair of the radar system, the Ministry of Transportation, which operates the system, is in the process of acquiring a new system that will replace the old one, to prevent similar failures in the future. The older radar is linked to automatic rain-measuring devices and other available radars, allowing it to form a synoptic view of rain patterns across the country.

At first, the Meteorological Service’s director, Nir Stav, estimated that since there was no lab in Israel that could repair the faulty component, they would have to buy one overseas and wait for it to arrive, which would take several months. Until recently, the service believed it could continue maintaining the older radar, leaving for later the decision to invest in a new system. According to Stav, this assessment was apparently wrong. The Meteorological Service always had a backup, using equipment operated by the Air Force, as well as using installations for detecting lightning.

The older radar was made in the U.S. and was purchased in 1997, after the Meteorological Service failed to forecast an intense storm. The radar is vital for identifying storm clouds, the amount of precipitation in clouds, as well as identifying outlying phenomena such as strong wind gusts and lightning storms. The system first collapsed last April, after which its power supply was replaced. By winter reports were that the radar “could not see a thing.”

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