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radcvt - MDR radar data conversion program


radcvt [parameters...] filename


Command Line Resource Default Description
-h help No Lists basic help information.
-df=filename default .wxpdef Sets the name of the resource file.
-na=name name radcvt Specifies the name used in resource file parsing.
-ba batch No Run program in batch mode
-me=level message out2 Specifies level of messages to be displayed
  • file information - mess
  • decoded output -out3a
  • MDR information and status - out3c
  • not in database - out3c
  • primary MDR information - out4a
  • echo data - out4c
-fp=filepath file_path current directory Specifies location of database files.  
-dp=datapath data_path current directory Specifies the location (path) of the input raw data files. This is the location where the ingest program has saved the data files. This may be modified in the name convention file.
-cp=conpath con_path current directory Specifies the location (path) of the output converted data files. This may be modified in the name convention file.
-nc=name_conv name_conv name_conv The name convention file specifies how files are named in WXP. This sets which name convention file to use.
-inp=input input mdr Specifies the input file type. The default is mdr. Possible values are:
  • mdr - MDR or RCM radar data from converted file (Default). Name convention set to rad_dat.
  • raw - Raw MDR data from ingested radar file Name convention set to rad_dat.
  • rcm - RCM summary data. Name convention set to rcm_dat.
-if=in_file in_file rad_dat Specifies the input file name tag. The default is rad_dat or rcm_dat (RCM), but it can be modified to any value in the filename convention file. A full name convention can be specified as well.
-ou=output output wxp
Specifies what type of output file is to be created:
  • wxp - WXP ASCII converted file. Name convention set to rad_cvt_wxp.
  • cdf - NetCDF binary converted file. Name convention set to rad_cvt_cdf.
-of=out_file out_file rad_cvt The out_file resource specifies the output file name tag. The default is rad_cvt but it can be modified to any value in the filename convention file. A full name convention can be specified as well.

Also, can specifies what type of output file is to be created:

  • wxp - WXP ASCII converted file
  • cdf - NetCDF binary converted file
-pf=file_param file_param User prompt
Batch: use
This specifies how to treat files that exist:
  • Use - use the existing file, don't overwrite. The program terminates when this occurs.
  • Over - overwrite the existing file
  • App - append the information onto the end of the existing file
  • Y - same as overwrite
  • N - same as use.
-cf=cityfile city_file rad.cty Specifies the name of the city database file used in finding station locations.
-cu=[hour|la] current None This specifies to use current data files. The current filename is based on the name convention. An optional hour can be specified for older data. If la is specified, the program will search back to find the most recent available file.
-ho=hour hour None This resource specifies the exact hour that a data file is valid for. This locks in the start hour for a multi-file sequence.
-pa=param[,param...] parameter None Extra parameters:
  • rawsum - use the raw summary in file rather than deriving one from MDR reports
filename None
User Pompt
Batch: current=la
The name of the raw data file to be converted. An optional sequence number can be added to designate the time for non-WXP files.  More than one file can be specified.


The intent of the radar data conversion process is to decode either MDR (Manually Digitized Radar) or RCM (Radar Coded Messages) data for future plotting and to create a national radar summary based on radar site echo information.

MDR Conversion

The program first decodes the MDR data for the following information:

  1. Radar site identifier,
  2. Report time,
  3. Report type, (area,line,no echoes,not available,etc.)
  4. Area coverage in percent,
  5. Type of precipitation, (rain,snow,thunderstorms,etc.)
  6. Intensity,
  7. Trend, (increasing or decreasing intensity)
  8. Location of precipitation,
  9. MDR echoes taken from local grid.

Then using the rad.cty file to determine the location of the radar site, a radar summary of the continental United States is constructed from the MDR echo data. This summary lies on a 120 (east-west) by 90 (north-south) grid that is then saved into the output converted file in a format compatible with the radar summary display program. The additional decoded data is saved to the output file for annotating the radar summary.

The radcvt program will first prompt the user for the input raw data file. This file should contain the MDR (SDUS) reports for a given time. It is recommended that these files be split up on hourly boundaries since this type of data is reported once an hour. The user may specify the input file either via the command line of through the current resource. The input naming convention is specified by the rad_dat tag but this can be changed with the in_file resource.

Once the input file is determined, the program determines the decode time from the filename specified or that of the current resource. Once the input file is set, the output converted file is opened for output. The name convention is determined from the rad_cvt file convention tag. If the converted file exists, the user will be prompted whether to overwrite, append or use the existing file. The append option leaves the current data in the converted file and adds the new station data onto the end of the file. If the use option is specified, the converted file is not modified and the surface data conversion program exits.

There are two types of output data file types available. The ASCII wxp Flat file data type saves all available information in a columnar format which may be edited with a standard text editor. The netCDF data format is a binary format which may be produced by specifying cdf for the output file type.

Raw MDR Summary

As part of the standard FOS feeds, the MDR radar summary is broadcast.  If this MDR is desired over the one radcvt can produce, this summary can be saved to the output converted file.  To select this, use raw for the input resource.  This option will not decode MDR data and won't add addition MDR data to the converted file.  In other words, no annotation is possible from the rad program.

RCM Conversion

RCM decoding is very similar to MDR decoding.  The RCM report is decoded into the following information:

  1. Site status
  2. Max echo tops
  3. Storm identifier
  4. Storm echo tops
  5. Storm movement
  6. Hail probability
  7. Tornado Vortex Signature location
  8. Mesocyclone location
  9. Echo data

The echo data is compiled into a radar summary on a 440x360 grid (4 times the MDR grid size) and saved to the output file.  The additional decode storm attribute information is appended to the end of the converted file so that rad can annotate the plot with the storm attribute data.

NOTE: radcvt must be run before any radar plotting can be performed..


radcvt -cu=la -pf=over -me=print

This converts the latest MDR data file and overwrites any existing file.

radcvt -inp=rcm -cu=la -pf=over 

This converts the latest RCM data file and overwrites any existing file.


  • rad.cty - the radar site location database file


  • rad - the radar data plotting program

For further information about WXP, email technical-support@weather.unisys.com
Last updated by Dan Vietor on July 29, 1998