Easter Sunday Story: Tornado Detection

I hope each and every one of you are having a wonderful Easter Sunday. Clear skies and calm winds made for perfect conditions for fog this morning. Never fear, though, the sun is on its way!

Our weather is looking great today, but we can’t let our guard down too much this time of year. There’s no severe wx in sight for this week but we know that will change, as we are in the battle of the seasons for the next month or so.

That is the inspiration behind today’s Sunday Story. I hope you enjoy!

Tornado Detection

The spring severe weather season is here, so it’s a good time to learn about the form of severe weather so many fear most; the tornado.

Tornado detection has come a long way over the years, thanks in large part to Doppler radar. This radar can tell which direction the winds are blowing within a storm. If those winds are rotating the radar will detect that rotation and a warning may be issued.

One problem with radar is that the beam increases with height the farther out from the radar site it gets. That means the radar beam coming from Nashville is a few thousand feet up off the ground by the time it reaches the plateau. This can lead to a lot of false warnings, as a storm may be rotating aloft but not making contact with the ground.

In recent years, a new radar product, called correlation coefficient, has been put to good use. This product detects debris that may be within a storm. This product knows when the object the radar beam is hitting is not rain or hail. That allows meteorologists to confirm a tornado has touched down based on the detection of debris in the storm, so long as the storm is strong enough to loft that debris high into the air.

We’ve come a long way since the days of WWII, when the military’s use of radar to detect enemy planes noticed that radar also detected precipitation. Now, we can even detect the winds, and possibly debris, within that precipitation.

Still, many tornadoes are too weak to be detected this way. Therefore, spotter networks are vital in letting folks know if a tornado has touched down.

So, keep an eye on the sky and always know what to do in case a warning is issued.


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