The National Weather Radar System (SINARAME in Spanish) begins its third stage, which foresees the expansion of the capabilities of the Operations Center (COP in Spanish) and the installation of ten new weather radars (RMA in Spanish), thus reaching a coverage of 70% of the country’s territory.
The project, which began in 2011 and has already installed a prototype (RMA0) and 11 radars in the national territory, has been financed since its inception by the Ministry of Public Works. INVAP is in charge of the construction and installation; and the National Meteorological Service (SMN in Spanish) is the main user of the system, for the elaboration of immediate alerts based on radar information.
Carlos Lacunza, Project Coordinator, stated that “the system is an example in South America. Argentina is the only country that has an integrated system that is managed from a single place. It works very well and is known worldwide. So, we started the third stage with a very good prognosis”.
This stage began with the installation of new equipment to process, visualize and manage data at the SMN’s COP. Twenty new high-resolution screens allow a more complete visualization of the information provided by the existing radars and those that will be installed during 2023.
In addition, since Stage 1, the heart of SINARAME has been operating at the SMN premises: a data center housing the servers, the storage of all the data, the images produced and the batteries that power the forecasters’ quipment. The current Stage 3 foresees the renovation and expansion of all this equipment, given the growth of the system.
This phase of the project will also include the expansion of the communications system, the installation of 18 local surveillance and interpretation offices (Local Nodes), and 9 monitoring and study offices. These offices will be located in the vicinity of the radar, and will provide with power and communications service the jurisdictional authorities facilitating the site. Thus, those jurisdictions that request it will have direct access to the information produced by the system. These offices will be able to receive the information produced by the automatic weather stations.
An application for cell phones is also being developed, open to all citizens, from which they will be able to access the entire radar system in real time.
2023: Ten new radars in the country to improve early warning
“With a radar we can see inside storms, see if there is rain, hail, and of what magnitude. It is a fundamental tool. But each radar has a coverage of only 240 km around it, that’s why it’s important to have many radars. The overlapping of these coverages is what is known as mosaic,” explains Pedro Lohigorry, Immediate Forecast Coordinator of the SMN.
Thus, in order to expand coverage, between 2023 and 2024 ten new radars will be added to the network, which will be located in strategic places:
Villa Reynolds, Province of San Luis (RMA12)
Las Lajitas, Province of Salta (RMA13)
Las Catitas, Province of Mendoza (RMA14)
Bolívar, Province of Buenos Aires (RMA15)
Tostado, Province of Santa Fe (RMA16)
Chamical, Province of La Rioja (RMA17)
Alejandro Roca, Province of Córdoba (RMA18)
Ituzaingó, Province of Corrientes (RMA19)
Las Grutas, Province of Río Negro (RMA20)
Santa Isabel, Province of La Pampa (RMA21)
There will be a total of 21 SINARAME radars and coverage will extend to 70% of Argentina’s continental territory. In this way, a greater number of inhabitants will receive immediate warnings for severe storms, among other phenomena.
SINARAME: a success story
“The idea of providing all over the country with radars was born from the demand of several organizations. In the early 2000s, there were some unsuccessful attempts to import radars, until 2008, when a transcendental political decision was taken: to manufacture them in the country. At INVAP,” says Lacunza.
On June 6, 2011, the contract for Stage 1 was signed between the Secretariat of Water Resources and INVAP. The company, based in Bariloche, would be responsible for the development and construction of meteorological radars whose main user would be the National Meteorological Service, where the Operations Center of all these radars would be located.
INVAP’s previous experience in the field of complex systems, and radars in particular, facilitated its insertion into the field of meteorological radars. However, the company required the advice and knowledge transfer of experts in meteorology and extreme events. “A team was formed to establish and understand the requirements, and it began to speak a common language with specialists in the use of meteorological radars,” explained Gustavo Cabrera, advisor to the general management of the company.
The first stage included the development of a prototype (RMA 0), located in Bariloche, and the first radar of the series, RMA 1, which was placed in the city of Córdoba, in the center of the country.
The contract for the second stage was signed on October 9, 2014 and extended until 2021. Ten more radars were added, located in Río Grande (Tierra del Fuego), Neuquén (Province of Neuquén), Mercedes (Province of Corrientes), Resistencia (Province of Chaco), Las Lomitas (Province of Formosa), Termas de Río Hondo (Province of Santiago del Estero), Bernardo de Irigoyen (Province of Misiones), Bahía Blanca, Mar del Plata and Ezeiza (in the Province of Buenos Aires). A total of 11 operational radars, added to other 3 radars owned by the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA in Spanish), covered 40% of the country’s territory. The RMA0, in Bariloche, is used by INVAP to test improvements that can then be applied to the rest of the network.
Since 2019, the Ministry of Public Works has also contracted INVAP to carry out the operation and maintenance of the SINARAME radars and computer equipment. In total, the project has demanded an investment of 6,400 million pesos.
Science and technology for climate change adaptation
SINARAME information does not go exclusively to the SMN, although this agency is its main user, and therefore receives the images with greater speed and resolution. This also presents challenges. “It is very positive to have better and better technology, but it is essential to add meteorologists to interpret the images, monitor the territory and issue warnings,” Lohigorry points out.
Radars, together with satellites, numerical forecast models and meteorological observations are the technologies that support Early Warning Systems, whose objective is to provide information so that communities can take measures to adapt or respond to risk. These systems and technologies are becoming increasingly necessary as the intensity and frequency of extreme events increase as a result of climate change.