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National Weather Service Improves Radar

( [email protected] ) Jun 13, 2013 12:46 PM EDT

The National Weather Service (NWS) completed dual-polarization upgrades to their Doppler Radar technology in April, which is expected to increase the accuracy of forecasts. The upgrade allows the radar to provide more accurate information about the intensity of storms and the type of precipitation in the atmosphere.

Doppler Radar, originally installed in the 1990s, had a horizontal energy pulse that gave meteorologists a one-dimensional picture of the atmosphere. Although it was strong enough to detect small insects and could identify precipitation in the sky, forecasters could not determine whether there was rain or hail in the atmosphere because of the radar’s one-dimensional picture. The upgrade to dual-polarization, however, will allow forecasters to distinguish different types of precipitation since it adds a vertical energy pulse to the radar and gives forecasters a two-dimensional picture.

Tornadoes in the Midwest have caused numerous deaths in recent months, and the National Weather Service hopes that the more accurate forecasts from dual-polarization upgrades will allow them to give more advanced warnings of severe weather to communities. They say that the technology allows them to more clearly detect debris in the air during a storm, an indication that a tornado has touched down. The debris also gives forecasters a better idea of the strength of the tornado as well.

The dual-polarization technology could help save many lives in the case of a natural disaster in the future. The National Weather Service said that the new technology will give forecasters “more-detailed images of what’s happening in the sky, so they can better prepare those on the ground.”