Upgraded Radar Software Will Enhance Severe Weather Operations

An exciting new software upgrade was completed on the WSR-88D radar at the Jackson, KY National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Office on July 10.  This upgrade enables the radar to obtain more frequent low-level scans, which will aid in identifying areas of strong winds and/or tornadoes associated with severe thunderstorms. 

Previously, the WSR-88D would scan the horizon first at a 0.5° tilt, then progressively increase the tilt all the way up to a maximum angle of 19.5°.  With this new software, titled Supplemental Adaptive Intra-Volume Low‐Level Scan (SAILS), the radar will now perform a low-level 0.5° scan in the middle of its progression up to the 19.5° tilt.  The images below describe this new process visually.




How Will This Help?

When severe weather threatens, it is crucial to observe what is going on in the lowest level of the storm.  Having this lowest radar scan more frequently will help forecasters better determine wind and/or tornado potential within thunderstorms, which can occur in a matter of seconds.  With SAILS, the NWS will be able to observe rapidly changing weather phenomena with a greater degree of precision and issue more timely severe weather warnings.  Currently, the WSR-88D completes its lowest scan in 3-4.5 minutes during severe weather.  Now with SAILS, the radar will perform this low-level scan every 1.5 -2.5 minutes, giving us this valuable data twice as fast as before. 

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