In an effort to reduce the time it takes to scan storms in order to alert the public of tornadoes and severe storms, the National Weather Service made small but potentially life-saving adjustments to their radar operations.
AccuWeather Meteorologist Jesse Ferrell explained that that updates to already existing technology will make for quicker warnings with more precise locations and that in general forecasts will be more accurate.
Radar sends out a pulse of energy, which then intersects precipitation. The amount of energy reflected back to the radar is proportional to the intensity of the precipitation falling. Meteorologists are able to detect tornadoes by spotting rotation and viewing debris lofted into the air that is visible on radar scans.
"[With the improvements] meteorologists will be able to observe storm structure and formation better than ever before, adding to what we know about tornadoes and severe storms," he said.
Radar scans up to 14 different levels to detect the nature of any given storm. The low-level scans typically produce the most pressing information regarding tornadoes and other severe weather. Scans of the higher levels will give a direct look into the middle of storms. When combining all 14 for a full-scale effort, all angles of a storm can be seen.
Automated Volume Scan Evaluation and Termination (AVSET) and Supplemental Adaptive Intra-Volume Low-Level Scan (SAILS) are the two methods in which procedures were altered to make for a more productive use of limited time.
Using SAILS, the radars will scan low levels twice for optimal viewing of storms during severe weather. Even though adding an additional look, the update interval will drop making for more accurate forecasts.
The AVSET scans will now assess which levels contain pertinent information by gauging whether storm activity is occurring in higher levels of the atmosphere. If there is not enough to warrant scans, the radar will automatically halt the higher-level operations and be able to provide quicker updates on the storm activity without wasting time scanning inconsequential weather.
As of July 22, the NWS has implemented the more efficient technology in 132 out of 160 scanners across the country.
With the majority of radars across the country being updated to the new programming updates and the rest soon to follow, warnings should be as rapid as possible in order to give communities the chance to protect themselves from threatening weather.