Weather radars' role in biodiversity monitoring

Shamoun-Baranes, Judy; Bauer, Silke; Chapman, Jason W.; Desmet, Peter; Dokter, Adriaan M.; Farnsworth, Andrew; Haest, Birgen; Koistinen, Jarmo; Kranstauber, Bart; Liechti, Felix; Mason, Tom H.E.; Nilsson, Cecilia; Nussbaumer, Raphael; Schmid, Baptiste; Weisshaupt, Nadja; Leijnse, Hidde


Biodiversity is changing at an unprecedented rate, and long-term monitoring is key to quantifying these changes and identifying their drivers (1, 2). Weather radars are an essential tool for meeting these goals. However, recent policy changes make vital data unavailable. Data policy should be adjusted to take into account the broad role that weather radars play beyond meteorology.
In addition to providing essential meteorological data for weather forecasts, flood risk planning, storm warnings, and atmospheric and climatological research (3, 4), weather radars detect trillions of insects, bats, and birds in the air (5, 6). By collecting such data, they could provide an unrecognized service to society: long-term standardized monitoring of aerial biomass flows (7). In the United States, weather radar data have already been used at a continental scale for these purposes (6, 8). However, similar efforts in Europe (9, 10) are now fundamentally threatened.
The Operational Programme for the Exchange of Weather Radar Information (OPERA) coordinates the exchange of radar data among European national meteorological services (11). It serves as a central hub for accessing weather radar data in Europe, allowing those in search of data to make one request instead of contacting each meteorological service separately. However, because of budget cuts and resulting prioritization of meteorological products, OPERA now requests that national meteorological services submit cleaned rather than uncleaned polar volume radar data (12). Uncleaned radar data include both meteorological and biological signals, whereas cleaned data exclude biological signals.