Under the Hood - How Signal Processing in the WSR-88D Provides the Best Quality Data

This course introduces the signal processing techniques used to extract weather estimates (base data) in the US NEXRAD program’s WSR-88D. Participants will learn what functions this Polarimetric Doppler weather radar performs, how it performs those functions, and how engineering and science teams evaluate the quality of the data. The course will explore important functional characteristics of polarimetric Doppler weather radar; and, how key parameters and data quality metrics support forecasting, warning, and climate science needs. Participants will learn about aspects of practical implementation of the requirements and supporting functions, including verification methods. The course includes notes on the historical development of the key requirements and signal processing development associated with the US NEXRAD program with emphasis on research-to-operations (R2O).

August 27, 2023 at 8:00 AM - 3:45 PM Central Time - Conference on Radar Meteorology - Minneapolis, MN (Hybrid)

Registration for this course will open in mid May.

Course Description:

Topics include how the selection of resolution volume and number of samples from the volume determine functionality and quality. The participants will learn the importance of wavelength selection, waveform design, sample rates, detection, system dynamic range, and coherency as well as numerous other parameters considered in requirements development. Topics covered also include volume scan-strategy development, base data estimation, clutter mitigation, and range-velocity ambiguity mitigation. The course will emphasize how functional and quality requirements support operations and research.

Participants will learn how basic signal processing can enhance the quality of radar base data estimates and the process to quantify and qualify data quality. Detailed methodologies for analyzing and verifying quality parameters will be included. Participants will review the importance of calibration requirements and will study methods for verifying calibration accuracy.

The course will explore the question of migrating requirements from traditional scanning parabolic dish antennas to modern phased array systems. The course will provide participants an opportunity to engage in discussions of future radar systems and how emerging technology potentially drives development of new requirements. An extensive bibliography will be included with the course notes.

Participants will:

  • Gain an understanding of how a basic meteorological radar functions and how the signals it generates interact with the scattering medium and microphysical processes in the atmosphere.
  • Learn the spectrum of measurements that modern radars are designed to make and the challenges attendant with producing results with suitable quality.
  • Learn of the progress made over the past several decades that led to successful program upgrades on the NEXRAD network.
  • Be prepared to embrace changes coming with the accelerating pace of technology development and be in a position to make significant impacts on future systems.




David A. Warde
David A. Warde

Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations/ University of Oklahoma, (CIWRO) NOAA/OAR National Severe Storms Laboratory

Richard L. Ice
Richard L. Ice

Major USAF (Retired)


Instructor Bios:

Richard L. Ice (M 2000), received his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering Degree from Auburn University in 1976 and his Master of Electrical Engineering Degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology in December of 1981.

From November 1971 to May 1992, he served in the United States Air Force, retiring at the rank of Major. He began his career as an enlisted radar technician, earned an officer’s commission in 1976, and then served in several research and development engineering positions. Major Ice completed tours at the National Security Agency, the Air Force Electronic Warfare Center, the U2 surveillance aircraft project, and at the US Military Academy at West Point where he led course development and supervised officer/professors from the Army, Air force, and Navy in the Electrical Engineering department. In 1990, Major Ice was selected to serve as the first Chief of Systems Engineering for the NEXRAD WSR-88D Operational Support Facility (now Radar Operations Center) in Norman Oklahoma. After retiring from the Air Force, he continued to serve the NEXRAD program in multiple capacities as a National Weather Service civilian, an Air Force Civilian, and as a team member for several support contractors. Major Ice led development efforts for major upgrades to the WSR-88D including the migration to digital receivers and signal processors as well as the dual polarization upgrade. He served as deputy chair for a World Meteorological Organization radar technical committee and also supported development of NOAA’s official Radar Functional Requirements. In that role, he served as the source scientist and subject matter expert for several quality related requirements such as clutter mitigation and estimate bias. He retired in August 2020 after serving as Chief Scientist for Centuria Corporation.

His awards include the NOAA Team Member of the Month, the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal, the Air Force Medal for Exemplary Civilian Service, and the Air Weather Agency Senior Civilian of the year. Major Ice’s military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

David A. Warde (AMS M’08, IEEE SM’08) received his B.S. degree (dual major) in Computer Science and Management/Computer Information Systems from Park University, Parkview, MO in 2004 and Electronic/Instrument Technology A.S. degree from Excelsior College, Albany, NY in 1997.

From 1982 to 2002, he served as an Aviation Electronics Technician with the U.S. Navy retiring ATCS (AW/NAC). From 2003 to 2008, he worked as Radar Systems Engineer support contractor for the WSR-88D Radar Operations Center, where he designed hardware upgrades to the WSR-88D testbeds and provided support of signal processing enhancements to the operational system including the base moment estimators, spectral ground clutter filter, and automated ground clutter detection. In 2008, he joined the Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations (formally Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies) at The University of Oklahoma where he currently is a Research Associate affiliated with the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). As a member of the Advanced Radar Techniques group, he conducts research and development of innovative signal-processing and adaptive sensing techniques to improve the quality, coverage, accuracy, and timeliness of meteorological products from weather radars. In addition, he is involved in the exploration and demonstration of unique capabilities offered by phased-array radar for weather observations; and the transfer of technology to existing radar systems in government, public, and private organizations.

Mr. Warde contributes to national and international conferences and has over 40 conference and journal publications on advanced signal processing techniques for Doppler weather radar. He is co-inventor of automated ground clutter detection and filtering technique (CLEAN-AP® © 2009) used on the Advanced Technology Demonstrator (ATD) Phased Array Radar (PAR) at the NSSL, C-band weather radars throughout the U.S. and U.K., and being tested for future operational use on the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) S-band, Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) network. Mr. Warde has received numerous awards throughout his career. In 2011, he received the Department of Commence Gold Medal as a member of the Radar Research and Development Division at NSSL for scientific and engineering excellence in adapting military phased array radar technology to improve U.S. weather radar capabilities.