Researchers with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory are about to begin experiments with a new radar that could improve the accuracy and timing of severe storm warnings. The radar features the Advanced Technology Demonstrator (ADT), which could help forecasters zero in on the severe aspects of a storm.
The way current radars work is through mechanical technology, which requires a dish antenna to rotate in order to scan the atmosphere. On average each scan takes 5-15 minutes depending on which radar we’re talking about and how it’s set to scan on a given day. That means it takes between 5-15 minutes for the radar image to update, which is a significant amount of time if severe weather is occurring.
The new ADT has a panel with thousands of small antennas, which can be controlled electronically instead of mechanically. This would allow forecasters to focus on an area of interest and receive faster updates on it than would be available with current radar technology. Being able to watch an area of rotation with faster updates could lead to faster warnings being issued, giving people more time to get to safety.
The new radar and its ADT will have to go through experimental testing to determine if it is indeed more efficient and reliable before it’s released for real-world use across the country. Researchers expect the experimental run to begin during the spring severe weather season of 2019.