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  • Radars


Besides weather satellites, atmospheric measurements, and computer models, meteorologists use weather radar to forecast the weather. Weather radar provides important information on where rain or snow is falling. Looking at several radar images over a period of time can give clues about where and how fast the rain or snow is moving. Several images can also help show if the rain or snow is growing or shrinking in area or if it is becoming heavier.

In 1975, weather radars used old vacuum tubes, similar to television sets of that era. Radar displays consisted of just two radar analysis products, and the display consisted of varying shades of gray to show different intensities of the rain or snow.

Today's weather radars operated by the National Weather Service are the most sophisticated operational weather radars in the world. These systems, including the one near Marquette which covers all of western and central Upper Michigan and much of Lake Superior, are highly sensitive and include Doppler capabilities. They provide fine resolution measurements of reflectivity and velocity and 39 categories of analysis products. Data and information from these radars allow forecasters to look inside storms and see actual wind motions.

While radar displays in 1975 were different shades of gray, radar displays today are in digital format with advanced color curves to highlight specific features. In 1975, the radar meteorologist had to manually trace the outline of rain and snow areas on an overlay to see where it was. Today's radars allow for quick identification of storms and rain or snow areas near various cities or towns, parks, rivers, and highways.

Today's radar data can also be shown with other data types such as plots showing where lightning is occurring giving meteorologists information upon which to base their forecasts.

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