A WEATHER radar station that will provide more accurate forecasts and an earlier warning against flooding has gone live.

The £1m station in High Moorsley, near Durham City, constantly sends and receives signals and “reads” rainfall data in 25,000 one-kilometre grid locations every five minutes.

This provides up to seven million readings a day from across the North-East.

Thorough testing of the radar has been carried out since the station was completed in August, last year.

It observes rainfall and records where, when and how hard it is raining, as well as how quickly rainfall is moving across the region.

Bill Wheeler, Met Office weather radar advisor, said: “Climate change will bring with it the risk of more extreme rainfall in the future.

“This latest addition to our radar network will allow us to better forecast heavy rainfall and the risk of potential flooding across the North-East.”

The equipment is housed in a cream radome, 6.2 metres in diameter and made from double- skinned fibre glass with a foam centre.

It has been created by the Met Office, Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency and each will make use of the rainfall data.

David Chapman, Northumbrian Water’s climate change manager, said the data would provide the company with a better understanding of how the sewerage network performs during heavy rainfall.

“Rainfall data, which will be loaded onto our database every hour, will equip us to investigate storm patterns in more detail and help us to better prioritise and design flood protection schemes.” The company’s secure site has been chosen for its central location in the region and is ideal to provide excellent radar coverage of the major urban areas, including those most vulnerable to flooding.

Phil Marshall, flood-risk team leader for the Environment Agency, said: “Recent flooding in the North-East has shown it is vital to be able to predict where and when rain will fall, so we can warn residents and the emergency services about potential flooding, and help reduce the risk of damage to property and loss of life.

“We can do our best to warn people, so they can act.”