Breakdown: Why doppler radar is an important tool

Breakdown: Why doppler radar is an important tool

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - First Alert Doppler 5: It is an important tool that we here are WMC Action News 5 use each and every day to track everything from severe clear to severe storms, but have you wondered how doppler radar works and why it is such an important tool for meteorologist across the country?

In this episode of The Breakdown, we are going to explain how doppler radar works and why it is important in keeping you safe no matter the weather at hand.

Radar systems gather information by bouncing radio waves off objects. This means when we track rainfall or other weather events, we use a special kind of radar called Doppler Radar.

It has a high-powered antenna that rotates and sends out pulses of radio waves. Those pulses bound off falling rain and then returns to the radar source.

First Alert Doppler 5 at WMC-TV
First Alert Doppler 5 at WMC-TV (Source: WMC Action News 5)

The radar then measures the time between pulses and the amount of time it takes those radio echoes to come back, the radar system can then calculate the distance and direction of the rain.

Doppler radar can also measure the changes in radio waves, which indicate wind speed and direction. A computer then combines the radar information with a map, so we in the First Alert Weather Center can tell where rain is falling, or a storm is occurring.

Special computer software lets the forecasters examine weather in towns and neighborhoods, right down to your street level.

Now let’s talk about the Doppler Effect. This is a physical phenomenon named after Austrian physicist Christian Doppler.

You might have experienced the Doppler Effect before, for instance, a fast-moving car honking its horn at you when it goes by, the pitch of the horn will sound higher as the object comes towards you, once it passes the pitch drops as it moves away.

The doppler effect occurs due to sound waves that are squeezed together as the object moves towards you, the stretched father apart as the object moves away.

Not only sound waves show the Doppler Effect; light waves and radio waves do the same. That is why a Doppler Radar system uses this principal to tell weather rain is moving closer to the radar or going farther away.

All this works together, helping you prepare at home for the rain, snow, sleet, freezing rain, or storms--giving you the First Alert to what is happening faster than any other source in the Mid-South.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved.