PADUCAH, Ky. (AP) — The National Weather Service is upgrading the Doppler radar in Paducah with the aim of giving forecasters more accurate information with which to make forecasts.
The service is replacing the nearly 20-year-old radar at Barkley Regional Airport with dual-polarization radar. Meteorologist Dan Spaeth told The Paducah Sun (http://bit.ly/TGnl7I ) the upgrade will allow meteorologist the ability to scan approaching weather systems to accurately determine the type of precipitation falling and amounts, in addition to allowing a clearer radar picture for impending emergency situations.
The new radar will allow forecasters to highlight areas where heavy downpours could lead to flash flooding; distinguish between rain versus hail, snow or sleet; improve scientists ability to determine non-meteorological returns like smoke; and even identify tornadoes within a 50-mile radius, said Rick Shanklin, warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service.
"It has enhanced capability to give us confirmation that there's a tornado on the ground," Shanklin said. "It is not a warning tool in the sense of giving advanced warnings for tornadoes, but after a tornado is occurring and picking up debris, it has good capability to verify that a tornado is indeed on the ground.
"That will no doubt increase the ability to give the public and those in harm's way information that something could happen."
Spaeth said meteorologists at the weather office received training for the new technology, but instead of completely changing the way forecasters process the data, the upgrades provide additional images for analysis.
"I don't imagine we'll flip a switch, and it's a mass improvement right away," Spaeth said. "But with time we'll be able to get better at our interpretation."
The dual-polarization will take about two weeks to complete, as engineers must upgrade the radar's hardware.
While the upgrade takes place, the weather service will use radar data from surrounding offices in Evansville, Ind., and St. Louis to keep the office operational.
The station at Fort Campbell will receive an upgrade in the coming months.
Information from: The Paducah Sun, http://www.paducahsun.com