# Activity: Interpreting a Radar Precipitation Display

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2 the horizontal view by the markings appearing along the boundaries of the view at 10-km intervals. Find the strongest echo beyond the one immediately surrounding the radar s location. How far away and in what direction from the radar site is it? Also, how many levels of intensity does this echo contain? 3 p.m. Reflectivity 2

3 The centers of the more intense radar echoes are tracked by computer. The individual storm cells are given a storm identification, in this case A and B. The computer projections of future individual storm cell positions are given by a red line denoting the anticipated path. The arrowhead is located at the expected one-hour position. Also given are purple lines that form a wedge of possible variation in position including cross line segments indicating 15 minute increments. These position projections are based on calculations using winds steering the storm cells. 2. In what general direction are these most intense cells expected to move over the next hour? If you were a meteorologist using this radar information, what public warning information might you disseminate? 3

4 The 4 p.m. Reflectivity view shows the contoured and shaded precipitation locations at that time. Also, the 3 p.m. Reflectivity positions and the projected movement information are overlaid on the image. 4 p.m. Reflectivity 3. Have any of the echoes changed location or shape? If so, which ones? Is there any echo that did not change? If so, where is it located? 4. Near radar sites, it is possible to get intense non-moving echoes because the radar signal is reflected from nearby stationary objects. Do any of your echoes fit this pattern (yes, or no)? If so, what is this echo called? 4

5 5. Precipitation echoes will continue to move across the radar field of view. In the 4 p.m. view, how many levels of intensity are now contained in the most intense storm?. Generally, the more intense the rain or snow, the greater the shading value. Based on this intensity, the precipitation area experienced [(a decrease)(no change)(an increase)] in rainfall rate. 6. From the projected track of the storm cells indicated in the 3 p.m. view and the current position at 4 p.m., how well do you think the computer forecast did? Are the storm cell positions within the spreads of uncertainty of position? 7. Note the curved feature at the southwest end of the most intense cell (located approximately in the center of the view). The curved protrusion occurs when rain is being wrapped around a rapidly rotating column of air. Name this severe weather feature. If you spotted this feature as a radar operator, what action should you consider taking? 8. The entire precipitation area is roughly oriented in a band from southwest to northeast. Such a pattern may be formed from individual storm cells associated along a cold front that is moving toward the southeast. Do individual cells move in the same direction as the line advances? In which general direction are the individual cells moving? If individual thunderstorm cells propagate along the direction of the winds at higher atmospheric levels, what probable direction might the winds at those levels be toward? 9. Finally, look at the 4 p.m. Precipitation Total view. The levels in this image according to the scale at the right are total precipitation amounts during the hour (in inches) that have fallen at any location during the time echoes were detected by the radar and rates compiled by the computer. How do the greatest rainfall amounts compare to the most intense reflectivity echoes seen in the 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. views? 5

6 10. If a hydrologic forecaster has a prior knowledge of streams, local topography, soil moisture conditions and locations of homes and business areas, how would the forecaster use the rainfall information to alert people to possible flood danger? What factors do you think are important for rainfall runoff? 4 p.m. Precipitation Total 6

7 Additional Activities: View radar displays available from the Internet or television. Compare the view with a weather map for the same time. Also, make comparison with satellite images for that same time. What observations can you make for the same locations in the comparison of radar, weather observations and satellite views? Set up a simulated radar in a darkened classroom. Use a flashlight to represent the radar and hang mobiles of smooth and crumpled aluminum-foil pieces to depict areas of rain or snow. Swing the flashlight beam around or up and down to search for the precipitation areas. Also, try swinging the flashlight around slowly and blink it on an off to simulate the radar pulses. Set up a coordinate system to describe directions and distances to the echo sources. 7

9 Figure 1. Reflectivity images from the NWS Forecast Office in Charleston, SC at 2301Z (left) and 2359Z (right) of 13 October 2011, respectively. 9

10 Figure 2 is the One Hour Precipitation Total from the NWS Charleston radar at 0012Z (8:12 p. m. EDT), a few minutes following the Figure 1 reflectivity image on the right. 6. Figure 2 suggests that the most intense precipitation cell(s) traveled generally from [(west to east)(south to north)]. 7. Over the hour period, the greatest amount of precipitation (dark blue and green shading) fell to the [(far behind the most intense rainfall)(where the most intense rainfall passed)(far ahead of the most intense rainfall)]. Figure 2. One Hour Precipitation Total from the NWS Charleston radar at 0012Z. For the latest NWS radar imagery, go to: radar.weather.gov/conus/. From here regional displays of reflectivities can be selected. Clicking on the U.S. or any regional map will bring you to the local NWS Forecast Office s radar page. At the station page you can choose the options of Base or Composite Reflectivities, Base or Storm Relative Velocities, and 1-Hour or Storm Total Precipitation amounts. Any of these can also be animated ( looped ). Explore and enjoy, be in the know when weather occurs. 10

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