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Tags: tornado | radar | weather service

'Radar Gaps' in US Leave States Vulnerable to Tornadoes

By    |   Sunday, 24 March 2024 01:57 PM EDT

Dozens of regions in areas of poor radar coverage — known as "radar gaps"— reportedly remain vulnerable ahead of next month's peak tornado season.

The U.S. weather radar network — considered the most advanced in the world — has had such gaps for years in both rural areas and highly populated cities, exposing millions of people, the Washington Post reported.

Local and state officials, meteorologists, universities and the private sector have ramped up efforts to reduce radar blind spots — despite a 2020 Weather Service report to Congress that downplayed the significance, the outlet noted.

"We've run into some roadblocks, partly because I think there's denial of the problem," Van Denton, chief meteorologist at the Fox affiliate serving North Carolina's Piedmont Triad region, told the Washington Post.

The Weather Service operates a network of 143 Doppler radars covering most of the contiguous United States. An additional 16 radars are located in Alaska, Hawaii, U.S. territories and military bases, the outlet reported.

But there are dozens of regions where the beam from the closest radar scans too high in the atmosphere to see certain types of severe weather.

A 2020 Weather Service report acknowledged there are regions where the closest radar can't scan below 6,000 feet — potentially missing tornadoes, heavy rain and other hazardous weather at lower altitudes — but found no "significant negative impact" on tornado- or flash flood-warning performance because "trained forecasters are able to overcome aspects of reduced radar coverage" by using information from satellites, models, storm spotters and other sources, the outlet reported.

Ajay Mehta, director of the Weather Service's Office of Observations, told the outlet the conclusions from that report are "still valid."

But time is ticking.

A recent report by NOAA's Science Advisory Board warned "Americans are at risk now due to gaps in, or poor, radar coverage especially in traditionally underserved communities," and it recommended the agency "act immediately" to implement a gap-filling radar strategy.

"The next generation of radars will roll out in approximately 10 to 15 years," Mehta told the outlet. The Weather Service "will continue to evaluate options that improve coverage in the interim."

According to the Washington Post, North Carolina is home to what meteorologists have considered one of the nation's most critical radar blind spots.

But other publicized radar gaps include those in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Washington state, the outlet reported.

Rather than buying and maintaining their own radars, some TV stations and local governments have tapped into a service from weather tech start-up Climavision, which has installed 24 radars in the United States since August 2022, the outlet reported.

Others that have filled in radar gaps in the United States or internationally include EWR Radar Systems and Meteopress.

Lawmakers are also taking interest. The outlet reported the Weather Act Reauthorization of 2023 contains several provisions aimed at improving radar coverage now and in the future, including "evaluation of commercial radars with the potential to replace or supplement the NEXRAD system."

Fran Beyer

Fran Beyer is a writer with Newsmax and covers national politics.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Dozens of regions in areas of poor radar coverage - known as "radar gaps"- reportedly remain vulnerable ahead of next month's peak tornado season.
tornado, radar, weather service
Sunday, 24 March 2024 01:57 PM
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