Israel's Weather Radar Crashed – but Here's How Jordan and Turkey Might Help

The radar stopped working just in the peak of rain season. But weather enthusiasts can use neighboring countries' radars until a new one comes to Israel

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The rain radar as displayed on the Meteorological Service's website.
The rain radar as displayed on the Meteorological Service's website.

Ardent followers of Israel's weather forecast are used to turning to the Israel Meteorological Service's rain radar for short and precise predictions on the status of rain clouds hovering above Israeli skies. In recent days, however, the radar stopped working just as the wet season in the country reached its peak.

The radar, which is situated in southwest Jerusalem, ran out of service several days ago due to a severe malfunction.

According to Nir Stav, the manager of the Meteorological Service, the radar is not functioning because of a technical issue with the power supply system. "The problem is that it is 25 years old and it's hard to find the right parts," Stav explains. "Israel doesn't have a lab that can fix the specific part that's broken, so we have to get it from abroad."

Stav says that it will take several months until the service will receive the necessary parts to fix the radar. In order to hasten the process, the service will try to get an expert from abroad to help out or find a suitable lab in Israel. But Stav explains that the laboratories and technology in this field are underdeveloped in Israel.

Flooding in central Israel, December 2018.Credit: Ilan Assayag

Until recently, experts at the Meteorological Service thought the radar could be maintained and that they could hold off the investment necessary for purchasing a new one. But now Stav says it was a wrong assessment.

The service has started a process of calling for a bid to buy a new radar, but it could take up to a year and a half until it finally arrives in Israel.

In the meantime, the current radar will function partially, and the service will be using Israel Air Force equipment as backup.

The radar was manufactured in the United States and purchased 25 years ago, after the Meteorological Service was unable to provide accurate information about a serious storm that hit Israel.

The Jordanian radar. It includes the Golan Heights as part of Israel's territory

It is essential for identifying storm clouds, the precipitation levels in rain clouds and unusual phenomena such as strong winds and thunderstorms.

"The public receives on our website only some of the information that we get," Stav notes. "People can get information from the Water Authority and the Mekorot company's radar as well, but it, too, has been dysfunctional lately."

The aforementioned radar stopped operating due to a strike by employees of Mekorot, Israel's national water company.

Israel has another radar, which is operated by the Israeli military's air force. The radar is not available to the public, but serves the Meteorological Service.

Israelis who want to keep up to date about the chances of rain can use the Jordanian rain radar, which provides accurate information about the region and actually includes the Golan Heights in Israeli territory (as opposed to the West Bank and Gaza).  

Israeli weatherman Boaz Nehemia says that since the rain radar broke down, the Jordanian website is suffering from an influx of Israeli visitors who threaten to crash it.

Residents of northern Israel can also use the Turkish radar, which is only relevant to the northernmost part of the Upper Galilee.