Weather Wednesday: How exactly does Doppler radar work?


LANSING, Michigan (WLNS) – If you didn’t know, Doppler radar is a very important tool that meteorologists use not only to forecast the weather, but also to provide information on current conditions.

The radar will constantly emit a pulse of energy into the atmosphere.

If there is no precipitation, or just cloud cover there, the beam will continue indefinitely and eventually disappear.

If there is precipitation, the energy pulse will contact them.

The raindrop will then absorb some of this energy before diffusing it back into the atmosphere in different directions.

A key direction goes to the radar sensor, essentially allowing the radar and the system to communicate with each other.

The radar analyzes the time between the emission of the energy pulse and its return.

Based on the time of day, meteorologists can calculate the distance between the sensor and precipitation.

Now another key factor of Doppler radar is a feature called “dual polarization” so that the radar not only emits energy in a horizontal plane but also in the vertical plane.

The vertical plane allows meteorologists to know the size of the object with which the energy beam comes in contact, as well as to tell the type of precipitation in the atmosphere and the type that we can expect in our area.

Whether it’s rain, snow, sleet or mixed precipitation, Doppler Radar has us covered.

Maria D. Ervin