Severe Weather Week: Using radar to track storms

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Severe weather can strike at anytime during the summer season, and it is important that we as meteorologists can indicate and track it. That is why, one of the most important weather tools we have is the radar.

One of the basic uses of the radar is known as reflectivity. We show that to you here at News10NBC, and that allows us to show you rain, snow, and ice. It also shows just how hard each of those precipitation types are falling. Typically, rain is shown in greens and yellows. Then snow is shown in blue or white, with ice in pink or purple. The color is important because this shows us how hard that precipitation type is falling.

So that’s reflectivity. That is what we show you most of the time. However, there’s another tool to the radar that lets us show you wind speed. This is called radar velocity. Radar velocity is typically shown in red and green. The colors are very important as it shows us wind direction. Think of it as “red=receding.” Air moving away from the radar. When you see green, that is air moving towards the radar. Think of “green= going towards.” We use this in real time. We used this last summer where we had a tornado touch down in Wyoming County. We had the NWS of Buffalo radar to the northwest. We had red, air moving away from the radar, and then air moving towards the radar. When you see it really tight like that, this is known as a rotational couplet. This indicates strong rotation within a thunderstorm. That allows us to track severe weather as well as strong winds.

Now, in order to track those strong storms, here at the First Alert Weather Team we use the First Alert Storm Tracker. The First Alert Storm Tracker can show town by town and down to the minute on when severe weather can strike. This is important because it lets us know so that we can show you when severe weather will strike so you can stay safe this summer.