New technology helping to detect severe weather

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – When you hear the unique sound used by a weather radio, it’s because the National Weather Service radar in Calera has detected a storm with high winds, hail or a tornado.

However, sometimes the radar is detecting something in the clouds that hasn’t reached the ground.

A radar upgrade, called dual-pol scans the storm in two directions.

“We know the answer to two questions,” said Kevin Laws, a science operations officer. “One: is the tornado on the ground? Yes or no? Dual pol will tell us those warnings on only those people that are going to be impacted by the storm.”

Laws keeps score of the number of times a warning issued but nothing happens, which is something called the “false alarm rate.”

Thanks to this new technology, that rate is going down.

“In 2012, our false alarm rate was about 44 percent, which was the best in the southern region,” Laws said. “[We] reduced it by about half of what we’ve seen in the past decade.”

If you get a text message from CBS42 saying there’s a severe storm or the CBS42 Weather Team is on the television talking about dangerous weather, it’s because they’re seeing information from the radar informing them that the storm is dangerous.

Even though the false alarm rate has come down, every storm needs to be taken seriously.

It’s important to understand the National Weather Service now puts out warnings based on where the torm is going.

Oftentimes, it’s just a part of a country or straddles numerous county lines.

Understanding these things goes hand-in-hand with awareness.

Copyright 2014 WIAT-CBS42

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