Radar upgrade can improve weather warnings

JACKSON, Ky. (WYMT) - If you've lived in Eastern Kentucky for any amount of time, you know weather around here can change in the blink of an eye.

From sunshine, to storms, to snow, we can see it all within the course of day.

That makes the doppler radar a very important tool for meteorologists, but while radar is very powerful, it does have some limitations.

Ed Ray from the National Weather Service in Jackson says, "Typically in a volume scan, it can take four minutes roughly to go through a volume scan, and a lot can happen in four minutes as severe weather goes."

A volume scan is a complete scan of the atmosphere, but the most important part of a storm is in the lowest level of the atmosphere. That problem of taking four minutes to get an update on the critical part of the storm is now a thing of a past thanks to SAILS, or Supplemental Adaptive Intravolume Low Level Scan.

Here's what SAILS does to upgrade the radar. Before SAILS it took almost four and a half minutes to get a complete scan of the atmosphere. The radar would scan the lowest level, tilt up scan the next level, and repeat the process all the way to the top of storms.

However the most intense part of the storms happen in the lowest levels of the atmosphere.

With SAILS installed, the radar does its lowest level scan, does the next two higher levels, and then comes back to the lowest level and scans again. This gives us faster updates with the most important part of the storm.

Ray adds, "If you're getting a scan every two minutes versus every four minutes you’re obviously going to have a better chance of picking up severe weather, whether it be high winds or a tornado or something like that."

The other great part about this upgrade is that it was only a software update.

Ray says, “"There were no physical changes to the radar, it's all software related. The bottom line is it makes the warning process more efficient, faster, makes it more reliable in the sense of we know more of what's going on at the ground, where the weather is impacting people.

With this upgrade our friends here at the National Weather Service office in Jackson, and your Sky Alert Weather Team, will be better equipped to keep you ahead of the storms.

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