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John Wheeler, WDAY, Published March 23 2012

Weather Talk: Doppler upgrade will mean less uncertainty in storms

The first major upgrade to the National Weather Service Doppler radar in Mayville, N.D., is scheduled for this June. The installation of dual-polarization Doppler is part of a $50 million upgrade to radar systems nationwide.

Many parts of the nation already have the upgrade, and it is making a difference. The major advantage of the upgrade is the ability to distinguish the shape and size of objects in the air. This helps forecasters to predict flash floods and helps us to determine the difference between rain and snow when it is near 32 degrees.

Just a few weeks ago on Feb. 29, forecasters in Springfield, Mo., used dual-polarization Doppler to identify airborne tornado debris near Branson, Mo., and were able to confirm that a tornado was on the ground.

The current Doppler system can reveal strong rotation in the air, but forecasters are unable to tell if a tornado is actually touching down unless there are storm spotters in the area. Even with the improvements, there will still be uncertainty during storms, but there will be less of it than before.


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