bioRad: biological analysis and visualization of weather radar data

7 September 2018

Dokter, Adriaan; Desmet, Peter; Spaaks, Jurriaan; van Hoeij, Stijn; Veen, Lourens; Verlinden, Liesbeth; Nilsson, Cecilia; Haase, Günther ; Leijnse, Hidde; Farnsworth, Andrew; Bouten, Willem; Shamoun-Baranes, Judy

Weather surveillance radars are increasingly used for monitoring the movements and abundances of animals in the airspace. But analysis of weather radar data remains a specialised task that can be technically challenging. Major hurdles are the difficulty of accessing and visualising radar data on a software platform familiar to ecologists and biologists, processing the low-level data into products that are biologically meaningful, and summarizing these results in standardized measures. To overcome these hurdles, we developed the open source R package bioRad, which provides a toolbox for accessing, visualizing and analyzing weather radar data for biological studies. It provides functionality to access low-level radar data, process these data into meaningful biological information on animal speeds and directions at different altitudes in the atmosphere, visualize these biological extractions, and calculate further summary statistics. The package aims to standardize methods for extracting and reporting biological signals from weather radars. Here we describe a roadmap for analyzing weather radar data using bioRad. We also define weather radar equivalents for familiar measures used in the field of migration ecology, such as migration traffic rates, and recommend several good practices for reporting these measures. The bioRad package integrates with low-level data from both the European radar network (OPERA) and the radar network of the United States (NEXRAD). bioRad aims to make weather radar studies in ecology easier and more reproducible, allowing for better inter-comparability of studies.