New technology will help track severe weather


CLEVELAND, Ohio (WKBN) – Our team of meteorologists is always working to help viewers plan their day and protect them when severe weather threatens.

Some new technology implemented by the National Weather Service will help them track weather moving through.

Our weather team recently had the opportunity to discuss new technology added to all Weather Service Doppler Radars, including those in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. The update is knows as SAILS and it has changed the pattern the radar uses when scanning for skies.

Doppler Radar works by sending beams of energy into the atmosphere and measuring what is reflected by things like rain and hail. Doppler Radar starts at the bottom and as it scans through, it will start scanning higher and higher until it reaches the top. But the new program will allow the radar to jump back down to the surface and scan the lowest level of the storm more frequently, Meteorologist Ryan Halicki said.

“That is where the action is occurring. A lot of our severe weather signatures tend to occur in that very lowest level scan, so the more frequently we can see it, the better we should be able to warn,” Gary Garnet of the National Weather Service in Cleveland said.

Until now, radar averaged 5 to 7 minutes to completely scan the area. The update cuts that time in half.

“Midway through that scan, the radar is going to drop back down and give us an extra look at the lowest level of the atmosphere so we should be able to see that every few minutes and of course, that is a very important area to look,” Garnet said.

Our meteorologist team said seeing fresh data from that lowest level is crucial when it comes identifying storms that may become severe, such as the tornado that hit Canfield last month. Garnet estimates that tornado was only on the ground for 2 or 3 minutes, and those tornadoes are among the most challenging to detect.

The new technology will scan the lower level of a storm more frequently and can help detect tornadoes like the July 8 E-F-1 in Canfield.

“Those weaker type tornadoes, everything in that lowest scan and the more often we can see that, the better chance we have at seeing something that would tell us there is possibly a tornado and possibly to get a warning out,” Garnet said.

Garnet said science is not there yet to detect 100 percent of tornadoes, but it is continuing to improve. Currently, 80 percent of tornadoes that occur in the United States are warned for before they strike. He feels the new technology may help improve those statistics.

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