In the middle of a farm field just east of Greeley, Colorado State University creates a strange combination in a strange building.
"This place is formally called the CSU-CHILL National Radar Facility," Steve Rutledge, scientific director, said. "High-level engineering research on weather radars."
Rutledge is a professor of atmospheric science working with electrical engineers like Dr. Chandrasekar V. Chandra to find better ways of gathering data from storms using sensitive radar.
"Measuring rain has been on of the biggest challenges that we have faced," Chandra said. "People have been trying to measure rain since the dawn of time."
Researchers have a large main radar named CHILL because it was built in Chicago, Illinois.
"This radar actually gleans signals from a swarm of insects flying over Denver," Chandra said. "So, it's a very, very sensitive radar."
CSU also has a small radar called Sea-Pol which uses a different band and is designed to go onto ships to gather data on tropical rainfall.
"We have to get into the tropics. A lot of precipitation falls in the tropics and energy that's released and the precipitation drives the general circulation of the planet," Rutledge said.
Now, they have a gift unlike any other the university has received before.
"It's brand new, out-of-the-box equipment. So, it's not hand-me-down equipment," Chandra said.
Usually, if the CSU-CHILL facility receives a gift of equipment, it is used. But, a Finland-based company called Vaisala donated a brand new state-of-the-art C-band radar to add to research students like Alex Morin are already doing.
"It's just another tool that we can add to our toolbox to help us develop these projects," Morin said. "It's an extremely expensive piece of technology."
Chandra and Rutledge say the weather radar systems they are working on today will become the latest technology across the country within five years. Rutledge says the gift will help push the envelope of research.
"It really does reflect the quality of research that goes on here both in electrical engineering by Chandra and by us in atmospheric science," Rutledge said.
The new radar is still sitting in boxes until the ground thaws. That's when they can start building the infrastructure to use an instrument meant to answer questions that haven't been asked yet.
"That's the best part of the job is people are going to figure out things that I haven't thought about yet," Chandra said.