The Doppler Weather Radar Has Evolved

Developed by the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the Doppler weather radar was specifically designed to identify areas of precipitation, humidity, and current wind speeds of a particular area and use that information to accurately predict the future movement and intensity.

This data obtained when carefully analyzed allowed the operator to determine the specific nature to potential storms and calculate their destructive capability. The radar’s function is based on the Doppler Effect principle of careful observation and study of the frequency within air waves to successfully determine wind speeds and direction to give an accurate forecast of the current weather.

The Doppler Theory states that as the source of the monitored waves approaches the radar, the frequency of those waves will increase. Similarly as the source moves away from the radar or observer the frequencies will inadvertently decrease. It is on this basis that the study of frequencies that the radial velocity and location of current thunderstorms have been accurately determined.

The history of the Doppler radar dates to the World War II as scientists operating military radars observed reflected sounds or echoes of weather related incidents including rainfall and snow. This prompted these scientists long after the war ended to continue their research in attempts to formulate a specific method to effectively utilize these patterns of echoes.

The first researcher to successfully develop functional radar was an American scientist by the name of David Atlas. A team led by Canada’s J.S. Marshall and R.H. Douglas made a historic discovery by establishing a distinctive link between the radar’s radiant energy and the rate of raindrops as they fell towards the surface.

The 1950’s through to the 1960’s saw several weather forecasting agencies worldwide actively developing reflectivity radars capable of accurately locating and measuring the intensity of precipitation within the atmosphere. It was not until the birth of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in 1964 that experiments were carried out to explore the possibility of using the Doppler Effect on the radar.

The standardization and organization of radar networks in the 1970’s gave birth to devices with the potential to capture images simultaneously. These devices by increasing the previous number of scanned angles were able to produce a type of three-dimensional image of the precipitation of the area monitored.

The town of Union City in Oklahoma in May of 1973 was hit by one of the most devastating tornados ever recorded in the State’s history. The event was observed and recorded by National Severs Storms Laboratory developed Doppler radar. The radar was able to successfully monitor the specific cloud movement, wind speeds, humidity and precipitation before the tornado actually touched down on the ground. This event spawned the realization of the National Weather Service to implement the device as an active and vital tool for effective weather forecasting.

Between 1980 through to the year 2000, several countries began developing and improving their radar networks with the United States, France and Canada changing from the previously used conventional radar to the newer and approved Doppler weather radars which were found not only to effectively track and monitor particle intensity within the atmosphere, but also the velocity and location of those particles.

Significant improvements were made to Doppler radar systems in the early 2000’s in the areas of technological advances relative to computer science which allows the Doppler Weather radar to provide more accurate readings and weather forecasting.