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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • David J McLaughlin
  • (413) 545-2725
  • Michael H Zink
  • Ming Xue
  • V. Chandrasekar
Award Date:09/24/2003
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 29,000,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 21,354,890
  • FY 2010=$4,220,000
  • FY 2011=$2,867,400
  • FY 2008=$4,633,215
  • FY 2004=$373,996
  • FY 2003=$2,500,000
  • FY 2012=$1,958,358
  • FY 2007=$511,294
  • FY 2006=$300,024
  • FY 2005=$171,624
  • FY 2009=$3,818,979
Start Date:09/01/2003
End Date:08/31/2015
Transaction Type: Cooperative Agreements
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.041
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA)
Federal Award ID Number:0313747
DUNS ID:153926712
Program:ERC-Eng Research Centers
Program Officer:
  • Eduardo Misawa
  • (703) 292-5353

Awardee Location

Street:Research Administration Building
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Massachusetts Amherst
Street:Research Administration Building
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

Our ability to monitor, anticipate, and respond to changing circumstances and events is increasingly important, particularly with regard to our physical surroundings. Nowhere is this capability more vital to society, or the challenges associated with its practical implementation greater, than in the context of the atmosphere, where hazardous local weather, such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, microbursts, snow storms, and floods as well as lofted radiological, chemical and biological agents can, in a matter of minutes or hours, destroy or contaminate life and property over vast areas. Yet, the portion of the atmosphere that contains the bulk of both natural and man-made hazards the lower troposphere and particularly the atmospheric boundary layer is grossly undersampled by today's sensing technologies. Our ERC proposes a revolutionary new paradigm in which transforming systems of distributed, collaborative, and adaptive sensing (DCAS) networks are deployed to overcome fundamental limitations of current approaches. Here, distributed refers to the use of large numbers of appropriately spaced sensors capable of high spatial and temporal resolution throughout the entire troposphere. These systems will operate collaboratively within a dynamic information technology infrastructure, adapting to changing conditions in a manner that meets competing end user needs. These systems will achieve breakthrough improvements in sensitivity and resolution leading to significant reductions in tornado false alarms, vastly improved precipitation estimates for flood prediction, fine scale wind field imaging and thermodynamic state estimation for use in airborne hazard dispersion prediction and other applications. Successful implementation of DCAS systems will require fundamental breakthroughs consistent with the NSF Technical Merit Review Criteria. Among these breakthroughs will be integration and sharing of knowledge across disciplines; design and fabrication of low cost, multi beam, solid state radars; creation of a systems based architecture to organize sensing, computing, and communications resources; development of twoway end user interfaces that dynamically target system resources; deployment of integrative test beds to validate assumptions and understand emergent system behavior; implementation of cross linked hierarchical data storage and processing; and improved understanding of small scale atmospheric processes. To achieve these breakthroughs, we have assembled leading engineering and computer science experts from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. They will work in partnership with scientists and engineers from the University of Oklahoma, Colorado State University and the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, and corporate partners including Raytheon, IBM, Vaisala, and federal and state government agencies to create the Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA). We will create scalable prototype test beds to demonstrate the potential for DCAS to revolutionize our understanding, detection, and prediction of hazardous atmospheric phenomena with end users involved from the outset. CASA meets the NSF Broader Impacts Review Criteria through: comprehensive education and outreach programs that introduce systems based engineering to K-12 students via the mandated engineering/technology curriculum in Massachusetts, and serves as the mechanism for expanding participation by under represented groups in engineering and scientific endeavors at all levels. Further, it will engage first responders and other end users through the provision of both technology and training. CASA will address the observation, prediction and response of weather, an issue that affects between 10 percent and 30 percent of the U.S. gross national product. Our management structure has the flexibility to take advantage of our broad partnership. For example, CASA will collaborate with industry partners, who, in turn, will create new product lines and services based on our new paradigm for sensing, analyzing, predicting and responding to atmospheric hazards in the troposphere.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

A nation-wide network of high-power radars forms the backbone of the nation’s hazardous weather warning system. These long-range radars effectively map the middle and upper regions of the atmosphere, but they are blocked from observing the weather near ground level owing to the earth’s curvature. This observation gap significantly limits the accuracy of today’s forecasts and warnings for tornadoes, flash floods, land falling hurricanes, rain and snowfall.

 The central challenge of the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere (CASA) was to engineer a cost-effective, lower atmosphere warning system, enabling better decision-making and outcomes for a range of stakeholders.

CASA’s innovation centers on creating networks of x-band radars deployed on cellular telephone towers or rooftops. The close spacing of these new radars enables direct observations of the lower atmosphere, where weather hazards impact people and built infrastructure. This approach would lead to better, more accurate forecasts and warnings.   CASA tackled this challenge through the creation of proof-of concept testbeds that integrated research in remote sensing, radar signal processing, systems control, computation and networking, numerical weather prediction, decision-making, and human perception and response to weather information.

 CASA’s first test-bed operated in Tornado Alley. The Oklahoma testbed was a 4- radar network that demonstrated CASA concepts for high temporal and spatial resolution mapping, forecasting, and decision-making with an emphasis on tornadoes. The CASA team, with guidance from industrial partners, developed an iterative systems engineering approach to design, implement and validate the performance of the system as it operated during four severe weather seasons in Oklahoma.  During a tornado outbreak in 2011, a tornado struck the town of Newcastle, OK where the CASA radar network was providing real-time data to local emergency managers.  Using CASA data, the Newcastle emergency manager was able to track the trajectory of the tornado and keep local first responders and residents safe from the tornado.  In addition, experiments within the testbed showed an historic breakthrough in the rainfall estimation accuracy, where the CASA radars resulted in a three-fold improvement compared to the current state of the art.

As part of its education mission, CASA’s second testbed was entirely conceived by and led by students.  The Puerto Rico testbed focused on “Off the grid” sensing for rainfall mapping and flood forecasting.  The student group demonstrated their first radar observations using radars powered by solar panels. They conducted a high-profile demonstration in Summer 2010 when their system was used to provide weather information during the Central American Summer games. This test bed continues to operate. 

In 2012, the CASA team relocated the Oklahoma testbed to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex where CASA research, education, and technology translation continues to this day. DFW Emergency managers, in conjunction with the North Central Texas Council of Governments, have arranged for locally-generated funding to pay for the installation and operation of the network.  This new public private partnership represents the first transition into practice of a CASA network in the US, and is sustaining CASA’s research beyond the original NSF grant.  Current users and evaluators of the system include over 800 participants ranging from public safety officials, storm water managers, airline and airport personnel, hospital administrators, utility and telecom dispatchers, media broadcasters and officials from federal agencies such as the National Weather Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.


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