Just this past week, a major upgrade was completed on the National Weather Service Doppler radar.
The technology that was previously used was developed over 20 years ago!
What do these upgrades mean for you?
One of the most sophisticated tools to keep you and your family safe during severe weather is Live WSBT StormTracker HD. Our software feeds us instant data from the radar site at the National Weather Service, and that radar just got a whole lot more powerful.
In a nutshell, Michiana weather can be described as ever-changing. That's one reason there is a National Weather Service office right in our own backyard. For the past few years, the National Weather Service has been implementing upgrades to its network of Doppler radars across the country. This month, it was our office's turn.
"It is going to help us to have more accurate forecasts and more timely forecasts," said National Weather Service meteorologist Courtney Obergfell of the North Webster office, who says the new technology will help improve forecasts. "To the public eye, you might not see anything different when you see the radar on TV or on a website. For us, it gives us more accurate lead times and forecast abilities during ongoing events."
The upgrade is called dual polarization. So, what does that mean? The old Doppler radar sent out a single, horizontal pulse of radiation, a one track system of tracking if you will. The downfall to this is that it only gives meteorologists an "estimate" of what is falling from the sky. With the upgraded technology, now we have two beams – a horizontal one and a vertical beam of energy sent from the radar. Two is better than one. The result – drastically improved information about the size, shape and type of snow rain, sleet, you name it.
"It is going to help us to have more accurate forecasts and more timely forecasts, Obergfell added. “You'll see the benefit in determining winter weather types, when it is going to arrive in your location, and how much is falling. In severe weather, we can get more accurate and timely warnings to the public."
The new technology is better when it comes to warning of severe weather. Earlier this month, a strong tornado struck Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The new radar was actually able to pick up debris from the tornado that was swept hundreds of feet into the atmosphere. The blue you see in the radar imagery is the debris from the tornado. The older technology tells us there is strong rotation within this storm but does not show actual debris. That's the benefit to this new dual-pol radar. With its doubled efforts it can help verify that a tornado is on the ground. This new technology helps fill the gap, especially in rural areas where there are fewer storm spotters.
"It can determine if it is pea sized hail or severe hail 1 inch or larger,” said Obergfell. “We will be able to get more accurate warnings, especially in places where we do not get reports of what is going on on the ground."
The new technology does not just benefit summer storms, it also helps improve forecasts for winter.
"It has been very helpful determining if a mix of precipitation is falling, if it is all snow, or where the line between rain or snow is, and also, if the snow is dry or very wet. It has been great in determining that," Obergfell added.
Being able to determine where that hard to predict rain/snow line is will help us bring you improved snowfall forecasts and help lead to earlier warnings to help you prepare for severe winter weather.
Since Live WSBT StormTracker HD uses instant data from the National Weather Service radar, we are able to put the new technology to use in real time... no delays... to better help track severe weather and keep you safe and one step ahead of Mother Nature.