Modern weather radar technology has saved lives in Tennessee

Modern weather radar technology has saved lives in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — During my forty-seven-year meteorology career, forty-two of them here in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, people have asked me, “What’s the biggest piece of technology that has come along? To help with weather detection and warning.” Severe hurricanes?

The National Weather Service's NEXRAD Doppler Radar is the answer by a long shot. She completely changed the game when she arrived in Nashville in 1994!


Mark Rose has been with the National Weather Service for 30 years. It was also around when NEXRAD radar was implemented.

“In my first year in the Weather Service, I used, before NEXRAD, what was called the WSR 74-C radar, which was not a Doppler radar. And for its time it was great. It did the job. But going from that directly to NEXRAD, I liken it to going from the prototype of Alexander Graham Bell Straight to iPhone The upgrade in technology has been so dramatic.

The old radar just showed you where the rain was falling and how hard it was. But NEXRAD Doppler radar allows meteorologists to see components of the winds blowing toward and away from the radar within a thunderstorm, which is essential for being able to spot tornadoes and severe weather.

The April 2009 Good Friday Murfreesboro tornado was captured on camera. But on radar, you wouldn't have seen it without NEXRAD.

Looking at the shape of the rain, you might think the tornado was south of Murfreesboro where you seem to see the hook.

When you switch to NEXRAD's velocity mode, you see that the combination of incoming and outgoing winds was actually at the back of the storm signature, heading straight for Murfreesboro.

Then there was the upgrade to NEXRAD in 2012 when it became what we call “Dual Pol,” which was another game changer and Mark Rose agrees.

“The fact that we can now identify tornado debris and we can confirm a tornado without an actual witness, someone who witnessed saying, 'Yes, there's a tornado,' we can actually verify that a tornado occurred just based on radar data,” which we couldn't do before. Rose shouted.

Severe weather and tornado detection technology has come a long way, and we're safer because of it, as long as we take action when severe weather warnings are issued.

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