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14. Doppler Radar - Nifty 50

Radar weather image

Research funded by NSF at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and at universities was instrumental in the development of Doppler radar as a meteorological research tool.

Doppler radar is what most Americans see every evening on TV news and weather reporting. Most, but not all, TV stations in the U.S.A. now have Doppler radar.

NSF funded NCAR and several universities to make important refinements to software and hardware technologies associated with Doppler radar that enhanced the use of these radars for both research and operational purposes.

Doppler advances

Conventional radar provides information about the location and intensity of precipitation associated with a storm, while Doppler radar adds the capability to discern air motions within a storm.

Doppler radar helps scientists and meteorologists see or detect near-ground wind shears, which are dangerous to aircraft. Doppler radar technology also enables meteorologists to forecast the location and severity of weather with greater accuracy, which has resulted in improved public safety and, in some cases, lives saved.

Storm research

NSF has also been involved in the development of ground-based and airborne Doppler radars, which have been used extensively in fundamental research on meteorological phenomena from tornadoes to large winter storms.

A recent significant achievement has been the collection of detailed information on three-dimensional wind and precipitation distribution near tornado vortices. Such information is beginning to reveal the nature of the formation and dissipation processes of these very destructive and life-threatening storms.

Original publication date: April 2000

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