Weather radar images give an accurate, live picture of the precipitation present in the atmosphere, and viewers of TV weather bulletins may well be familiar with them.
Behind the scenes, radar data is also used nowadays to continuously update numerical weather models, and thus improve forecast accuracy. Radar rainfall data is also of great benefit to those concerned with forecasting river levels and assessing flooding risks.
· The Met Office currently operates 15 radars across the UK, and makes use of data from two radars operated by the Republic of Ireland Met. Service and the Channel Islands Radar.
· Each radar has a range of 255 km, and completes a series of five 360° scans at increasing elevations every five minutes.
· Live radar data are sent to the Met Office Exeter HQ, where further processing takes place to produce a composite picture of the precipitation.
· Radar images show rain, hail and snow. Drizzle can sometimes be detected, but it poses a challenge as drizzle droplets are very small.
· These data are vital components of a successful forecast and crucial for issuing warnings of heavy rainfall events.
· The UK radars are currently undergoing an upgrade to 'dual-polarisation' capability, enabling more accurate information about the observed precipitation to be derived.
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Last updated: 4 August 2016