Radar and Weather Predictions
Name: Peter V.
I have just read a piece published by Scientific American
detailing a new forecasting system developed by MIT. The system is called an
Integrated Terminal Weather System (ITWS) it uses a variety of
sophisticated algorithms and data from seven different radar sources. How
can radar predict climatic changes?
Radar does not have the capability to predict climate changes. A weather
radar is an observational instrument, whose main use is the detection of
The Integrated Terminal Weather System takes data from a variety of weather
sensors, including weather radar, and can display the current state of the
atmosphere near and around an air terminal. These displays can be "looped,"
that is, shown in a rapid time sequence, to make the clouds and
precipitation to appear to be moving on the display. Very sophisticated
presentations of clouds, precipitation, visibility, and winds are possible
with the ITWS, and it is an important tool in detecting low level wind shear
near airports. Low lever wind shear is very dangerous to aircraft if the
pilots are unaware of its presence.
Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, Missouri
Remote sensing of the atmosphere is becoming
increasingly more accurate and therefore
useful for monitoring weather conditions.
NEXRAD radar is certainly the most visible
of the remote sensing tools used, although
there are dozens, including microwave radar
(used on satellites, as well as on the ground),
micropulsed lidar, sodar (like sonar, but for
the atmosphere), microwave radiometer,
infrared temperature sensing, etc.
These tools can provide information for making
better short-term weather forecasts and they may help
in monitoring climate change, but the information
from them will not, in itself, allow us to better
predict climate change. Only long term trends
(measured with these tools), applied to climate
models, can allow us to try to predict climate
David R. Cook
Atmospheric Research Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012