March 24, 2019 | 47° F

Rutgers is now home to cutting-edge NBC weather radar

Photo by Rutgers University |

The StormTracker 4 will be placed on Cook campus and will be used by the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) as well as Rutgers Meteorology students. Rutgers is the only university that meets federal meteorology requirements.

Rutgers is now home to the most powerful and accurate weather radar in the tri-state area, named the StormTracker 4, according to a press release by NBC.

The radar will be located on Cook campus and will be used by the Department of Environmental Sciences, students and in RU-tv’s weather broadcasts.

NBC 4 New York, WNBC, Telemundo 47 and WNJU announced the arrival of StormTracker 4 on Feb. 2.

“We’re excited to give our meteorology students the opportunity to observe the weather as it is developing,” said Anthony J. Broccoli, a professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

The new weather radar will fill gaps in weather coverage across the tri-state area with a tracking range of 50,000 square miles, roughly the size of Pennsylvania, according to NBC's press release. 

“If they (students) go on to be operational meteorologists they will be using radars in their careers as well, so this program will give them a leg up in this regard,” said Steven Decker, an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Over the next few months, data will start being collected from the radar and students will have the opportunity to see how weather radars work, Decker said. 

Broccoli will be visiting NBC in New York on Wednesday to learn more about the hardware and software students will use to access the radar, he said.

“We hope to have access to the radar data soon thereafter,” Broccoli said.

Rutgers is the only university in New Jersey that meets federal requirements for meteorology, according to the press release. 

The federal government and the American Meteorological Society have very specific requirements for a university to qualify for a meteorology program, Decker said. Rutgers’ curriculum includes courses such as differential equations that other schools do not have in their programs.

“I would estimate that there might only be about 60 programs in the entire country that have undergraduate programs in meteorology, which averages to not much more than one per state,” he said.

Undergraduate programs in meteorology are not as common as physics, chemistry, biology or other natural science programs, Broccoli said.

“It’s also about having a wide variety of meteorological experience,” Decker said. “Students learn about climate change, how clouds work, how the tides interact and that’s why our program meets the requirements."

Meteorology graduates from Rutgers have a competitive edge over meteorology graduates from other schools in New Jersey, Decker said.

The partnership between NBC 4 New York, Telemundo 47 and Rutgers University has been in the works for a few years, Decker said. NBC 4 was interested in a location for StormTracker 4 relatively close to New York City so they could get good coverage of the weather.

“We have had Rutgers students intern many times at NBC and I’m sure there are some Rutgers alumni at NBC 4, so there is a connection through the students, which led them to start investigating Rutgers with more detail,” Decker said.

The Rutgers campus happens to meet technical requirements, including distance, elevation and height of buildings that determine the best place for weather radar installations, said Robert M. Goodman, the executive dean of the Agricultural and Experiment Station and executive dean of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. 

NBCUniversal conducted a study of the New York metropolitan area, and their preferred site was in the vicinity of New Brunswick, but away from the city center, he said.

“When they realized they were eyeing Rutgers property, they called me and we started talking, leading to the announcement this week," Goodman said.

StormTracker 4 tracks storms more closely from ground level and can detect smoke from bushfires and debris from tornadoes.

“Not only will Rutgers’ unique partnership with NBC 4 New York and Telemundo 47 keep our region safe and informed when severe weather is on the horizon, it will also help us educate a new generation of meteorologists by giving our students access to the latest technology for monitoring the atmosphere in our area,” Goodman said. 

There is a unique relationship between RU-tv and the meteorology living and learning community, Decker said. 

Students have the opportunity to live in Perry Hall on Cook campus where there is a television studio with state-of-the-art weather graphics that NBC 4 would use in their studios, he said.

“This (will) give students the opportunity to take meteorology beyond the classroom and learn the specialized equipment, get comfortable in front of the camera and do actual weather forecasts for RU-tv,” Decker said.

Gabriela Amaral

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