Radar upgrades offers benefits during severe weather

Ron Morales showing some of the new products offered with the dual-polarization upgrade (John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Sonya

JASPER COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) -- It's a tool that meteorologists use every day -- radar. And thanks to a recent upgrade to the National Weather Service radar, more accurate forecasts and better warnings during severe weather are expected.

The radar, which is located in Jasper County, sits over 100 feet above the ground and transmits energy out into the atmosphere.

"The dome material is all fiberglass. We have small metal rivets but they aren't affected by the transmission of the pulses that go though," said Brent Shirts, Electronics Systems Analyst with the Charleston National Weather Service.

And inside the dome, there is a satellite dish.

"It is rotating and then it tilts, tilts, tilts up to 19.5 degrees," said Shirts.

The signal is now transmitting horizontally and vertically thanks to the dual-polarization upgrade.

"So what that does it gives us it two axis' so we can see the shape of a particular particle like a hail stone or a snowflake or even things that are not meteorological,' said Ron Morales, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Charleston National Weather Service.

These new products provide meteorologists a better understanding of what is going on during thunderstorms.

"If there is a strong and damaging tornado on the ground for example, we may be able to see the particles or junk, debris that it is kicking up to give us confirmation that it is on the ground," said Morales.

The products also provide more information about hail and heavy rain, which can lead to flash flooding.

"Whether they are public friendly or not, as long as the meteorologist, the people that are using them...the person on the radar understands what they are interpreting and looking at then what that should do is translate into a better warning, more accurate forecast, more accurate rainfall data or rainfall forecast," said Morales.

And that is the kind of information that will keep you safe from whatever Mother Nature throws our way.

All 122 National Weather radars across the country have now been upgraded to dual-polarization.