The Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA)

In 2008, the Trauma, Health & Hazards Center joined the $40 million National Science Foundation funded Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). CASA is a multidisciplinary project developing a new network of low-power weather radars enabling earlier and more accurate forecasts and warnings for tornadoes and severe weather events.

According to the National Weather Service, approximately 62 people die every year in tornadoes. In 2008, 124 people lost their lives. Dr. Eve Gruntfest and Cedar League are a part of CASA’s End-User Integration Team, investigating the CASA radars from a social science perspective. This includes how and when emergency officials warn the public during severe weather events, as well as what weather information is used to make those decisions and how CASA radars could potentially improve warning response by providing an increased lead-time for warnings and a more specific warning coverage area.

THHC received over $300,000 in funding to work on the CASA project through the year 2013. The University of Colorado, Colorado Springs joins a multidisciplinary team that includes researchers from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst which is the lead center, University of Oklahoma, Colorado State University, University of Puerto Rico- Mayaguez, University of Delaware, University of Virginia, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Magill University.

CASA radars sense the lower troposphere of the atmosphere where most tornadoes form. This area of coverage is often missed by today’s high-powered NEXRAD radars used by the National Weather Service due to the earth’s curvature. A network of four low-power, low-cost and high resolution radars are currently operating in a four-county testbed in Oklahoma.

CASA radars are just three-feet by three-feet with electronics that are about the size of a personal computer, in contrast to today’s high-power radars which have 30 foot antennas and are three stories high. CASA radars are placed on cellular towers.

CASA was one of four centers selected from over 100 teams competing for the prestigious Engineering Research Center designation in 2003. The National Science Foundation funds 24 engineering research centers nationwide. The centers are designed to partner university researchers with industry and government practitioners to tackle issues too complex and expensive for one sector alone.

CASA’s industry partners include Raytheon, IBM, Vaisala, OneNet, DeTect, Inc., EWR Weather Radar, WeatherNews International. Government partners include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Severe Storms Laboratory and the National Weather Service.

Additional information about CASA can be found at http://www.casa.umass.edu/

Publications:

League, C.E. and W. Díaz. The Effect of Radar and Weather Information Products on Emergency Manager Decision Making. Poster session presented at: 34th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Application Workshop; 2009, July 15-18, Broomfield, CO.