Northern Luzon PRSD
Background of Japan Overseas Development Assistance Projects in Northern Luzon- PAGASA
Japan assistance to the Philippines particularly to PAGASA dates back to the 1960's through several cooperation projects. In 1963, Japan assisted the PAGASA in the establishment of PAGASA Port Area Meteorological Office (PAMO) and Radar Station and Virac Radar Station. The Virac radar was established on top of a hill at Buenavista, Bato, Catanduanes in 1968. The two (2) stations were equipped with JRC JMA – 118 A/E radars. Likewise, a JRC JMA – 118 A/E radar equipment was also installed at Guiuan in 1972. These systems provided analog radar image displays in grey scale.
In 1974, the Virac radar was replaced with JRC WSR 57 along with the establishment of radar station at Ducan, Aparri, Cagayan. The radar equipment at Aparri was a 5cm Toshiba TW 1163A. Later, the Ducan, Aparri radar was transferred to Punta Aparri location in 1987. The Virac and Guiuan WSR 57 radars were then upgraded to WSR 77. In 1994, Virac, Guiuan and Aparri radars were upgraded thru the Meteorological Telecommunications Systems Development Project (MTSDP) funded by the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund. The upgrading provided digital data achieved after processing of the radar signals. The colored images are displayed delineating rain areas and rainfall estimates have big increments.
The radars provided observations of weather systems coming from both the West Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean such as rain systems associated with Southwest Monsoon and Northeast Monsoon, tail end of cold front, sea breezes, easterly waves , intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) and tropical cyclones (TC). TC crossing Luzon within the 400km range of the radar were tracked and reported thru coded messages (FFAA report of TC eye fixes and FFBB report of rain area and rain intensity).
At that time, the earlier radar observations presented tedious jobs whereby from images, important signatures are encoded, decoded and re-coded for transmission and for meaningful interpretations of meteorologists. The trainings provided by
Japan enabled PAGASA meteorologists to operate, maintain the equipment and utilize radar data in identification of weather echoes especially the determination of TC centers. The determination of the echoes' areal extent and the extrapolation of echoes in space and in time served as simple forecasting tool for the general warning of residents. The data were also utilized by other forecasting centers such as Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) thru the global telecommunication system. The knowledge gained from the equipment maintenance trainings were applied to maximize the life spans of the radars. There were limited archiving of data and images were kept as clippings for reference.
The Port Area radar did not have a replacement when the radar station got burned in 1978.
The Aparri, Virac and Guiuan systems were rehabilitated in 2005 funded by the Philippine government. PAGASA radar experts and Japanese consultants worked together in the rehabilitation of the systems. However, radar parts were limited and some were due for phase out because of the introduction of new technology. The radars were retired from service in 2010 when the government of Japan provided the Philippines thru Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) the Grant Aid package that started implementation in 2011.
The Project for the Improvement of Meteorological Radar System in the Philippines (2011-2013)
The JICA Grant Aid package initiated in 2009, started in 2011 and completed in September 2013 is a significant breakthrough in PAGASA weather works whereby new state of the art Doppler radars were installed at strategic sites of Virac, Aparri and Virac. The new state of the art Doppler radars have reliable detection range increased to 0.5mm/hr within 350kms and to > 1mm/hr within 450kms, replacing old systems with detection range for 0.5mm/hr of up to 200kms, for 1mm/hr at 300kms and for > 5mm/hr at 450kms. Display of dBZ and rain estimates are refined to closer ranges. This is achieved with constructed new radar towers at all sites increased to 39 m height from ground level and installation of solid state radars with new state of the art radar signal propagation/transmission, receipt, return signal processing and display systems completed and made operational in 2011 for Virac, 2012 for Aparri and middle of 2013 for Guiuan. The new Doppler radar systems provided radar signal digitization before data processing that preserved the original characteristics of radar signals. A dedicated and reliable Very Small Aperture Satellite communication link is also provided by the JICA Grant Aid for radar real-time digital data transmission from the sites in Virac (Catanduanes), Aparri(Cagayan) and Guiuan (Eastern Samar) to PAGASA Weather and Flood Forecasting Center (Quezon City).
The JICA Grant Aid likewise provided ancillary systems for the new Doppler radars' full and non-stop operation such as generators, uninterrupted power supply, cooling systems and lightning detection and protection systems. Spare parts were also provided. Trainings for equipment managers, technicians and forecasters were conducted The high technology state of the art systems utilize environment friendly pulse compression technology and further generate value added products for severe wind, rainfall, hail and other nowcasts information that are likewise processed for the use of PAGASA in forecasting of heavy rain laden weather systems, early warning of coastal storm surges, riverine floods, flash floods and landslides. In Northern Luzon, the Aparri Doppler radar upon its completion in 2012 is being used in the monitoring, tracking and forecasting of tropical cyclones. In 2013, PAGASA weather forecasters have used the Aparri radar images in advisories and early warning issuances of destructive tropical cyclones in northern Luzon such as Labuyo, Odette, Santi and Vinta.
Indeed, the Philippines are such a lucky country to benefit from state of the art technology weather monitoring systems from Japan.