Doppler radar system gives region’s first warning of whatever weather is to come

By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

WISE GAP – As the spring tornado season is upon us, Monroe Countians, like everyone living in Dixie Alley, brace themselves for unpredictable weather. However, recent upgrades to the Columbus Air Force Base Doppler radar located at the intersection of highways 278 and 8 East can improve the ability to identify areas of concern for meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Memphis.
“The radar is continuously being improved,” said NWS Meteorologist Phil Baker.
The Doppler radar, named after Austrian physicist Christian Doppler, has the ability to see if winds are blowing toward or away from the radar and, when put together on a map, gives meteorologists an idea if and where cold air is.
“It basically gives us a profile of the winds which helps us predict the weather. Also, if there is a severe storm, it helps us to see if there is rotation,” Baker said.
A doppler can also eliminate false signals produced by trees, wind, birds and other environmental factors using a filter that can reduce or eliminate signals from slow moving and stationary objects.
The Air Force, U.S. Department of Defense and NWS work closely to maintain the Doppler radar which has been upgraded to a Dual Polarization Radar.
Dual-pol technology adds an additional 14 products to the data already available to the NWS, assisting forecasters in the warning and forecast process. Some of the benefits of dual-pol technology include better estimation of total precipitation, improved ability to identify areas with flash flooding potential
and an ability to classify types of precipitation.
“The radars in Jackson and Memphis have also been upgraded,” said Baker, who points out that this part of Dixie Alley is definitely a hotspot for tornadic activity.
“Severe weather is always possible for northeast Mississippi, so we have to be vigilant.”
Monroe County’s Doppler radar is located equal distance between Doppler radars in Jackson, Memphis and Birmingham.