A few days ago, a local friend asked me what had happened to the "giant golf ball" on top of Bishop Hill. I was embarrassed to admit that I hadn't even noticed it had gone! However the fact it had disappaered from the landscape immediately raised my curiosity!
For those that are unaware, the "giant golf ball" on top of Bishop Hill (technically Munduff Hill) is part of a network of 15 rain radar stations, that are dotted around the United Kingdom and are operated by the Met Office.
The Bishop Hill installation is only one of four sites in Scotland, with each site capable of measuring rainfall up to 250 kilometers away.
The data from these rain radars can be plotted on a map, to provide a visual reference of where rain is falling, the intensity, and the direction the rain is moving. You can view the output from the Met Office radar network right here on FifeWeather.co.uk.
So, back to the original question, why has it gone!?
As it turns out, the Met Office are upgrading all 15 of their radar sites with new dual-polarisation antennas (which will be protected by a new hexagonal geodesic dome). The upgrade will allow the radars to better differentiate between rain, snow and hail, as well as being able to provide improved rainfall estimates.
The following time-lapse video shows the upgrade taking place at another radar site (this one at High Moorsley in England) late last year:
According to the Met Office, the new antenna is planned for installation sometime in July, with the plan being for the site to return to full operation in October this year (just in time for winter!).
If you're interested in reading more about the Rain Radar Network and the upgrades that are underway, the Met Office have a number of good articles starting here.