Severe Weather Awareness 2017

Photo of author

By Scott Roberts

This year’s Severe Weather Awareness Week for Kansas starts on Monday. Throughout the week I’ll be posting on a number of severe weather-related topics and linking back to some of our previous preparedness posts.

Today, we take a look at one of the keys to monitoring the weather in real-time…weather radar. The current generation of weather radar in the US is the WSR-88D. Here’s an infographic produced by the National Weather Service in Tulsa about the 88D (click to enlarge):

Infographic on the WSR-88D radar. Produced by NWS Tulsa
Infographic on the WSR-88D radar. Produced by NWS Tulsa.


I never gave a though to what the WSR meant. A nod to the wartime heritage of RADAR, the acronym that stands for RAdio Detection and Ranging.

During World War II, radar operators discovered that weather was causing echoes on their screen, masking potential enemy targets. Techniques were developed to filter them, but scientists began to study the phenomenon. Soon after the war, surplus radars were used to detect precipitation. (via Wikipedia)

The “hook echo” was first described in 1953 by Donald Stagg. The imagery in the early days was nothing to write home about:

Tornadic storms near Minneapolis-St Paul, May 06, 1965 (courtesy NOAA, public domain)

Nowadays, radar images such as this are the norm:

NEXRAD Level 2 radar image (Base Reflectivity), Moore, OK tornado May 20, 2013. Original image:

With Level 2 data and the proper software, it’s possible to watch a 3-D image of the storm with only a few minutes lag from real time:

3-D display of radar data from the May 3, 1999 Moore tornado. Image produced by Gibson Ridge Software, the maker of GRLevel2 Analyst, at

Technology continues its march…and we reap the safety benefits.

Would you like to learn how to interpret the various radar products to position yourself to safely observe and report severe weather? It’s one of several topics I’ll be covering in Salina March 15th and 22nd in cooperation with the CLASS program at Salina Public Library. Here are the details…


.st1{display:none}Members Get More

Additional details are available for these membership levels: Basic Enthusiast
Log In Join Now


Keep Up to Date - Enable Notifications OK No thanks