New Technology Helps National Weather Service See Inside The Storm


Sunday, April 27th 2014, 5:10 pm
By: News On 6


When a storm watch or warning is issued in the area, it comes from the National Weather Service in Tulsa.

It has been using a new kind of radar for a year now that really helps on days with the threat of severe weather.

Usually, radar just shows if there's precipitation or a tornado. The new radar shows if there's hail, rain or tornado debris.

4/27/2014 Related Story: Tornado Watch Issued For Far Eastern Oklahoma Counties

In an unassuming Tulsa office building is a cave of computers with a lot of maps and colors.

It's the job of dozen meteorologists to analyze, wait and watch.

Now new, enhanced radar is making their job more accurate.

"We can say there is a tornado there or there is large hail there, and so we can maybe convince the public to take better action," NWS Tulsa meteorologist-in-charge Steve Piltz said.

Piltz said this new radar gives the National Weather Service a look inside the storm. Before it could only tell when precipitation was falling.

Now these different colors mean rain or hail.

"See raindrops versus hail, and sometimes we can see the debris of a tornado versus heavy rain and hail, so it's very useful during severe weather season," Piltz said.

It's called dual-pole radar.

"Basically what it means is that we're sending out two pulses of radar energy instead of one," he said. "One of them is basically oriented up and down, the other one side to side. And so by seeing the difference between the two oriented pulses, we can kind of estimate what's going on inside the beam."

But they don't want data overload.

There's no room for error.

That's why Piltz still maps out the storm by hand, just like he did when he first started.

"In 1990 when I came here, we didn't have a live radar display really in the office. We had a Plexiglass covered map with grease pencils," Piltz said.

Airports would call in reports and they'd map it out trying to determine the range of the storm.

Now they're getting all that information instantaneously, just by looking at this new radar.

"We've gone tremendous leaps and bounds in the last 25 years," Piltz said.

Follow The National Weather Service In Tulsa On Facebook

A lot of people follow the National Weather Service on social media.

That's also changing how the meteorologists there work.

They don't have someone designated to post online, so they just do it themselves along with their other duties.

They really care about getting information out to the public any way they can.