Is it raining? Without a radar, Israeli meteorologists remain in the dark

"As a forecaster, without a rain radar I am blind. Until someone dies and there is a disaster, no one will wake up."

Israel's rain radar remains inoperative, November 2020 (photo credit: screenshot)
Israel's rain radar remains inoperative, November 2020
(photo credit: screenshot)
As Israel recently entered the rainy season in full force with a series of thunderstorms and flooding, Israeli meteorologists remained largely in the dark as the national weather radar sat inoperative yet again.
Currently owned by the Israel Meteorological Service (IMS), the radar was purchased over 27 years ago and has suffered from a series of errors and issues until it became inoperative last year. Because it is so old and no longer in production, it is difficult to find replacement parts to fix it, according to Ynet.
The lack of a new national budget since the beginning of three rounds of elections and the current coalition crisis has prevented the Transportation Ministry, which is responsible for the IMS, from receiving the funds needed to fix or replace the broken radar.
Last year, the ministry published a tender for a new radar system, but has not received the NIS 10 million required for such a purchase. The current plan by the Transportation Ministry is to try and fix the current radar, which will cost NIS 2.5 million, but even if the repairs succeed, the radar is not expected to begin operations soon, according to Ynet.
"As a forecaster, without a rain radar I am blind," said Danny Rup, Ynet's weather forecaster. "If, for example, a flood develops in the Arava, I currently have no way of warning the public. The radar sees rain, it detects the intensities and direction of its progress quickly –this is critical.
"Until someone dies and there is a disaster, no one will wake up," said Rup, stressing that even developing countries have radars. Rup suggested transferring responsibility for the IMS to the Science Ministry where "they might address this issue properly."
The Transportation Ministry told Ynet that Transportation Minister Miri Regev ordered the ministry to take all required action to return the radar to operation, adding that the radar's broken parts have been sent outside the country for repairs and should be returned to Israel within a matter of weeks.
Due to the continuing budget crisis, a budget of NIS 2.5 million was approved for renovations to the current radar until a larger budget can be approved for the purchase of a new radar.
"Forecasters at the National Forecasting Center receive radar data from other public sources and lightning data in real time, and therefore warnings about dangerous phenomena and short-term forecasts for transportation, shipping and emergency and rescue services continue to come out as usual," added the ministry.
While the main radar has been down, the IMS has been using Jordan's weather radar and the radar belonging to the Mekorot water company, according to Ynet. It has also been able to use the IDF's radar, but the general public does not have access to this.