Back in May, a long awaited update to the most popular chasing radar program was released. GRLevel3 Version 2 came out with many new, amazing features that took this popular radar program to the next level. It is priced the same as the original version at $79.95, but those with a valid version 1 key can upgrade to the new version for $40. It was announced shortly after the release that users who purchased GRLevel3 in 2011 into 2012 can upgrade for free.
Installation was easy, but its worth noting that this is a completely separate program, so it is not made to install over the original GRLevel3 should you have it on the same computer. With that said, make sure you do install it into a completely different directory.
One of the first things I noticed when opening the program was the default background. In version 1, you could add any number of backgrounds through placefiles, but the default background here is a detailed terrain map. You can even zoom in and will show buildings, streets, and other high-resolution details. Street level mapping on radar has been a long sought-after feature in many radar sites and programs. The ability to zoom literally down to your house and see the storms overhead is a fun feature.
The other big addition I noticed right away was the dual-pol tab in the menu bar. Dual pol is a very high-resolution radar which is available on selected sites across the country. You're able to view multiple slice levels of these radars which gives you high resolution looks into storms.
There are a host of other features added to this. Below are a few listed on the official GRLevelx site of some of the usability changes from version 1.
1. Zooming. The "Zooming Mouse Mode" was removed. In its place is a simple right-click-and-drag zooming function. The mousewheel continues to function as a zoom tool.
2. The Smoothing checkbox has been changed to a "Smoothing" toolbar button at the top.
3. Smoothing is now per-product (on the products that allow smoothing). These per-product settings persist between runs of GR3 2.00.
4. The "Control Panel" on the right side has been organized into "Layer" sections. The "Radar Layer" section now includes a "Data" checkbox and a "Melting Layer" checkbox. The Data checkbox turns the graphical radar product on and off. This allows you to see what's underneath the data easily. The Melting Layer checkbox turns on/off the ML lines (when available).
5. The "Other Layers" section includes a new "LSR" checkbox. If LSR downloads are enabled in the "Products" menu, this control becomes active and allows you to toggle the LSR visibility.
6. Polling now has an "adaptive" component to it. This was added to improve polling performance when a NEXRAD is in AVSET mode. Basically, GR3 2.00 looks at the time interval between the two most recent volume scans and shortens the next poll time accordingly (minimum of 187 seconds and maximum of the VCP rate). With this tighter timing on polling, you'll see more retries, especially on the public NWS server because of its screwy caching.
7. Window positions adapt to changes in your monitor configuration. The window size and placement are remembered for each monitor configuration you have. They'll even switch size and placement on the fly.
8. City labels are centered over the city's lat/lon. Cities are area objects, not points, so it seemed more appropriate to label the area rather than a point. In addition, you can now see the city's true extent in the automatic background.
9. File->Import. These selections bring over 1.xx settings to 2.00. The "Site Settings" import, as the name implies, brings over the site-specific settings for the currently selected site (Home, shapefiles, etc.). It doesn't bring over settings for all the sites in 1.xx.
One of the key changes I noted and personally liked was the visual indicators added to the default icon sets. Numbers have been added to show the intensity immediately instead of having to move a mouse cursor over the icon. This was done with TVS and hail indicators where you can see immediately the intensity of each with just a look. Of course, you can hover the mouse over for more detailed information, but this was extremely handy and useful for those quick glances.
Another quick glimpse item I enjoyed was the options for tornado-warning polygon boxes. In the original version and most other radar programs, you get the standard polygon box around the warning. In version 2, there are two additional polygons for tornado warnings. One is when a tornado is confirmed with the storm. Seeing this box (a black border around the colored polygon) means that warned storm has a confirmed tornado with it. I found this EXTREMELY useful in the field as you would have to usually click the box and scan the text. This was a visual confirmation that the storm was not radar indicated, but with a confirmed tornado. Another option is for the 'Tornado Emergency', that rare instance when a large dangerous