US Navy’s high-resolution radar can see individual raindrops in a storm

US Naval Research Laboratory says study could help develop new severe weather monitoring applications

us navy research lab
The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) researchers said recently that a Navy very high-resolution Doppler radar can actually spot individual raindrops in a cloudburst, possibly paving the way for new weather monitoring applications that could better track or monitor weather and severe storms.

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According to an NRL release, the very high-resolution "Mid-Course Radar"  was used to retrieve information on the internal cloud flow and precipitation structure.  The radar was previously used to track small debris shed from the NASA space shuttle missions during launch. "Similar to the traces left behind on film by sub-atomic particles, researchers observed larger cloud particles leaving well-defined, nearly linear, radar reflectivity "streaks" which could be analyzed to infer their underlying properties," NRL stated.  

From the NRL: "Scientists could detect the individual particles because of a combination of the radar's 3MW power, narrow 0.22 degree beamwidth, and an unprecedented range resolution as fine as 0.5m. This combination of radar attributes allows researchers to sample a volume of cloud about the size of a small bus (roughly 14 m3) when operating at a range of 2 km. With such small pulse volumes, it becomes possible to measure the properties of individual raindrops greater than 0.5mm in diameter due to the low concentration of such drops in naturally occurring cloud systems and the overwhelming dominance such drops have on the measured radar reflectivity when present in a field comprised of smaller particles."

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The researchers also said they expect the results of their findings will help unlock secrets of cloud and precipitation formation such as the development and movement of large hail stones which lead to over a billion dollars in damage annually to crops and property in the United States alone.

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