Radar weather improves thanks to revolutionary cooperation

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Professor Dmitry Moiseev at the Faculty if Sciences has been working at the university since 2007. This university researcher, who transferred from Colorado State University, had the opportunity to develop remote sensing for meteorology.

– The project turned out to be fascinating and unique. Our collaboration between Vaisala, the radar manufacturer, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the University of Helsinki was pioneering. Each partner brings their valuable and unique perspective and expertise to the whole, he says.

Moiseev has held the position of Associate Professor in Radar Meteorology at Kumpula since 2013 and was promoted to Professor in 2021. The objective of the Associate Professor Chair is to build a successful research program in the field, to train new experts in technology radar and to deepen develop various technological solutions.

Moiseev’s work is also supported by donations to the university, as the university uses the proceeds from the University of Helsinki’s Future Fund for the post. Vaisala also made several donations to the future fund. In addition to the funding partnership, Vaisala has also led many other collaborations with the university.

Moiseev and his partners employed by Vaisala have become good acquaintances over the years.

– In our joint projects, Dmitri is the scientific engine of the train. Vaisala integrates technology and product development into the collaboration, while the scientific elaboration and application of research results is the responsibility of the scientists, says Erkki Järvinen, director of weather radar at Vaisala.

Vaisala enjoys academic research and the position of Associate Professor in their own field. The researchers, for their part, praise the good collaboration and say that consensus is easy to reach. The research is very international.

– We worked with the NASA research unit to measure snow at the Hyytiälä forest station, for example, and we have several partner universities internationally, says Moiseev.

More than a weather radar

In 2004, Vaisala had a weather radar built on the Kumpula campus for a collaboration between Vaisala, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the university. The protective golf ball-shaped radar dome atop the Physicum building can be seen from afar on the Helsinki skyline. The radar is still used by both the university and the meteorological institute, a producer of meteorological information and a research institute under the Ministry of Traffic and Communications.

– At the time my post of associate professor was created, Vaisala was still a newcomer to the field of weather radar, and the Kumpula weather radar was still a prototype, explains Moiseev.

Feedback to Vaisala on the radar and her function was central, especially early in the collaboration. The feedback helped develop the weather radar further, such as improving signal processing functionality and testing new algorithms.

In addition to the large Kumpula radar, the university also has its own smaller radars, and these days Moiseev’s work is focused on training new users of weather radars.

– In Finland, it is a challenge to cover blind spots that are far from major weather radars. That is why we also need training in the use of smaller radar equipment.

Kumpula’s weather radar is at about half of its 20 to 30 year lifespan. The technology was last updated in 2010, and future development is to be discussed.

– The radar is still used in its original capacity as a weather radar. However, now it is much more accurate than originally, and you can distinguish for example swarms of insects and objects blown by the wind, which in turn can give us information about the weather characteristics. , explains Moisseev.

At Vaisala, collaboration is also seen as very useful.

– Dmitry’s interests dictate what we measure with radar. However, the collaboration gives us, the company, the opportunity to obtain analytical data that has been collected “in the field” from practical research, says Erkki Järvinen of Vaisala.

One of Moiseev’s research axes focuses on clouds containing a mixture of different elements. Clouds containing small drops of ice water, for example, have characteristics that we need to predict in order to know where clouds containing water will drift and whether they will disrupt aviation, for example. We also need to know when the drops will turn to snow or ice. Moiseev responded by developing the use of the Kumpula weather radar to use the laser to test cloud composition.

Cooperation between many partners

The University of Helsinki, Vaisala, and the Meteorological Institute work closely together. The different goals and needs of the partners are easily integrated into the daily teamwork.

In his own research, for example, Moiseev focuses on different cloud formations, which relate to the larger picture of weather phenomena on land, at sea and in the air.

– The study of cloud composition will also be an important part of my own research in the future. Vaisala, in turn, may want to test and develop the technology, and the Meteorological Institute may research open source data, such as forecasting extreme weather conditions using weather radar, Moiseev describes different views.

– Forecasting potentially dangerous weather phenomena, such as torrential rains, will help us prepare for, for example, floods, which will be of benefit to the general population. Radar can also predict storms by measuring the amount of water droplets or insects in the air, and this information is useful, for example, at airports, explains Moiseev.

Annakaisa von Lerber, researcher at the Meteorological Institute, is a partner in the collaboration where the objectives are mutually reinforcing.

– Views arising from the nature of Vaisala’s business means that we look at things over a half-year or a full-year period, and from a business perspective, we also need to make the commercially useful research. While most researchers are also interested in longer-term research questions, the different time perspectives of our research have not caused any problems, she says.

Erkki Järvinen from Vaisala also thinks that the collaboration between many partners has worked well.

– Cooperation constantly brings us new contacts, ideas and a natural interaction between companies and other research organizations outside of our three partners – the University, the Meteorological Institute and Vaisala.

– In working together at the local level, it’s a short way to discuss this and that, says Järvinen.

Students are part of the community

In addition to research, Dmitry Moiseev also teaches. The Radar Meteorology module of the Atmospheric Science MSc program includes a laboratory course, as well as observations at Kumpula and Juupajoki, the weather station of Hyytiälä Forest Station from the University of Helsinki.

– The course seems to be popular among the students. The students have not yet acquired a very in-depth scientific basis, so they are able to ask surprising questions. Collaboration between different partners also gives students a broader perspective on their studies, explains Moiseev.

Some of the students’ ideas were refined into research questions.

– The main thing, however, is to teach them to think and to make observations with the material. All the new information we get with is a plus, says Moiseev.

– Students in the field are skilled workers – where else would we even have such a well-trained workforce? Erkki Järvinen appreciates the importance of student cooperation.


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