Radar helps meteorologists determine current weather conditions in their forecast area. But it only gives us a piece of the data.
Meteorologist Amber Wheeler of the KX Storm Team said, “Radar is a lot, but it’s not everything. So we have satellite data we can look at, we also have a lot of sensors around the state.”
When looking at radar, sometimes it can be deceiving. Sometimes there can be areas on the radar that look like heavy precipitation. However, if the air above the surface is very dry, that rain can evaporate before reaching the surface (called virga).
Wheeler noted the importance of observations, by saying, “We can see what the air type is like, you know, is it dry air? Is it moist air? We can see if a cold front’s moving in and based on the current observations, we can kind of get a good gist as to what is going to happen.”
Meteorologists around Bismarck will have to rely more on these observations for the short term.
Alex Edwards, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service office in Bismarck, said, “Starting next week, the radar is going to be out of service for approximately two weeks.”
This is a part of what’s called the Service Life Extension Program and prolongs the life of the radar for several more decades.
Edwards said, “They remove the radome, the big white ball that you see if you’re driving near the airport, they’re going to remove that, and replace and refurbish the pedestal.”
The pedestal allows the radar to rotate and get a picture of the conditions in every direction.
Edwards continued by saying, “Inside the radar is a big dish that spins around constantly, 24/7. It’s always spinning, looking for that precipitation or whatever it might detect.”
The end goal is to help us get a clearer picture of the ever changing North Dakota weather.