Modern weather radar technology has saved lives in TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In my forty-seven-year career in meteorology, forty-two of which were here in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, people have asked me, “What has been the biggest piece of technology that has come along to help with the detection and warning of severe weather and tornadoes?”

The National Weather Service’s NEXRAD Doppler Radar is the answer by a long shot. It was a total game-changer when it arrived in Nashville in 1994!

Mark Rose has been with the National Weather Service for 30 years. He was also around when the NEXRAD radar was implemented.

“My first year in the weather service I used, before NEXRAD, what’s called a WSR 74-C radar, which was not Doppler Radar. In its time, it was great. It did the job. But going from that directly to NEXRAD, I liken it to going from the Alexander Graham Bell prototype directly to an iPhone. The upgrade in technology was that dramatic.”

The old radar only showed you where it was raining and how hard. But the NEXRAD Doppler radar allows meteorologists to see the components of the winds blowing toward and away from the radar within a thunderstorm, which is essential to being able to spot tornadoes and severe weather.

The Murfreesboro Good Friday Tornado of April of 2009 was caught on camera. But on radar, you couldn’t have seen it without the NEXRAD.

Looking at the shape of the rain, you might think that the tornado was south of Murfreesboro where it looks like you see a hook.

When you switch to the NEXRAD’s velocity mode, you see that the couplet of inbound and outbound winds was actually in the back of the storm signature, heading straight into Murfreesboro.

And then there was an upgrade to the NEXRAD in 2012 when it became what we call “Dual Pol,” which was another game-changer and Mark Rose agrees.

“The fact that we can now recognize tornado debris and we can confirm a tornado without an actual witness, somebody who’s a witness saying, ‘yes, there’s a tornado’, we can actually verify that a tornado is occurring just based on the radar data, which we had never been able to do before,” Rose exclaimed.

The technology of detecting severe weather and tornadoes has come a long way, and we are a lot safer because of it, as long as we take action when severe weather warnings are issued.

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