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Weather IQ: How radar works

Radar is one of the most important tools used by Meteorologists. But how does it work?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A meteorologist' most valuable tool is radar. Telling us where the precipitation is, and where's it going. How strong a storm is and the winds it's producing. But how does it work? Let's raise that Weather IQ. 

How RADAR Works:

RADAR is an acronym for Radio Detection And Ranging.

RADAR sends out radio waves or pulses of energy from an antenna. These beams of energy eventually strike an object and reflect some of that energy directly back to the RADAR.  

That object could be rain, snow, sleet or hail. 

The larger any one of these is the more energy that is reflected back which measures the intensity of the precipitation 

The longer it takes that wave to return, the farther away the object is.

The radar scans one beam every 1,000th of a second at the speed of light and continues to scan the area giving us an accurate picture of what is happening.

A typical radar will complete a full scan of the skies every 4-6 minutes. 

Doppler Radar:

With the advantage of doppler technology, a radar can scan a storm’s radial velocity. This shows whether the weather is moving toward or away from the radar. This helps meteorologists locate tornadoes and rotating storms. 

Dual Polarization: 

About ten years ago All of the National Weather Service-operated RADARs also got an upgrade called Dual-Pol or Dual Polarization.

This transmits and receives scans in both the horizontal and vertical thus showing a 3D look into the storm.

The beam is tilted through 20 different elevations.

Radar nowadays has many layers and tricks that are most useful to us, and you when the weather is at its worst. 

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