The WAAY 31 StormTracker Early Warning Radar Network: More precise winter weather forecasting

One of the more significant benefits with WAAY 31's Early Warning Radar Network with dual polarization radar is the ability to detect non-meteorological items, such as tornado debris during severe weather. But another less-commonly known benefit to dual polarization radar is the ability to discern between different types of precipitation during winter weather.

Posted: Jun 16, 2020 12:12 PM
Updated: Sep 24, 2020 10:47 AM

The development of dual polarization radar has been invaluable for meteorologists tracking active weather. One of the more significant benefits with WAAY 31's Early Warning Radar Network with dual polarization radar is the ability to detect non-meteorological items, such as tornado debris during severe weather.

But another less-commonly known benefit to dual polarization radar is the ability to discern between different types of precipitation during winter weather.

ADDITIONAL COVERAGE

The three Doppler radars that make up the WAAY 31 StormTracker Early Warning Radar Network is the only radar system that can cover every square inch of North Alabama and provide earlier warnings with precise, real-time accuracy that can see storms other radars miss. Other radar systems, including the National Weather Service, have significant gaps in their radar coverage areas to see storms closer to the ground. With Doppler radars located in Muscle Shoals, the Decatur-Huntsville area, and Guntersville, the WAAY 31 Storm Tracker Early Warning Radar Network is the largest privately-held weather radar system in the United States.

Take a look at this example of dual polarization radar detecting the transition from rain to snow this past February here in North Alabama.

This radar image is from the Correlation Coefficient product, which examines how uniform radar targets are in size and shape. Warmer colors indicate a strong correlation while cooler colors suggest that something on radar looks different from normal rainfall. The dark red color near Decatur indicates uniform radar targets, suggesting that these areas are seeing just rain. However, notice the orange and yellow colors near Rogersville on the top left corner of the radar image. Those colors indicate less uniform radar targets, suggesting that frozen precipitation, such as sleet or snow, is mixing in with rain drops.

Notice how these orange and yellow colors progress eastward over a two hour period towards the I-65 corridor, including Athens and Decatur. You can also see green and blue colors mixing in with the orange and yellow colors, indicating that there is perhaps more frozen precipitation than there are raindrops. Pending confirmation from the public, this could mean a full transition to snow was taking place as the transition line moved closer to Decatur. Regardless of whether a rain/snow mix or a full transition to snow was occurring, our team of meteorologists used dual polarization radar to quickly conclude that the rain/snow line was advancing further east towards heavily populated areas of North Alabama, meaning travel conditions would likely deteriorate soon.

These radar images are from our WAAY 31 Storm Tracker Early Warning radar site in Decatur, which has dual polarization capabilities. This enhanced radar technology will provide our team with the most accurate and timely information during winter weather in North Alabama with minute-by-minute updates that give a clear picture of exactly what is happening on the ground during potential snowy or icy conditions. The WAAY 31 Storm Tracker Early Warning Radar Network now provides you with the earliest heads up on potential winter weather impacts wherever you are in North Alabama, preparing you before winter weather strikes to keep you and your family safe.

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