The federal government has installed sensors to map wind currents at three points in the Washington, D.C., area as part of a high-tech network to help predict the airborne path of a chemical, biological or radioactive release in the event of terrorism, the Washington Post says.
Six, 30-foot aluminum weather towers have been installed on government buildings in the most comprehensive wind analysis attempted in any U.S. city. The goal is to forecast how urban “wind fields” might disperse fallout from a weapon of mass destruction. Ultrasonic sensors sample the wind 10 times a second, with the data downloaded every 15 minutes.
Analysts have warned of the potential use of unconventional weapons such as a radiological device, or “dirty bomb,” against populated areas. Until now, tools precise enough to help officials respond to a local atmospheric release have remained rudimentary, two federal scientific panels concluded. “The Washington exercise is seen as a prototype of what could eventually be a nationwide program,” said Bruce B. Hicks, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s air resources laboratory, which created the system, called DCNet. The system includes two sites in Manhattan — Times Square and a federal building in Greenwich Village.
The network’s builders have asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $2 million to $10 million to build out a system of 75 to 175 towers throughout the Washington-Baltimore area.