Here at StormTrak9 we have the latest technology at our disposal to develop and deliver an accurate daily forecast and keep you informed about severe weather. One of our most important tools is Live StormTrak9 weather radar located at the Central Wisconsin Airport (CWA). Some of you might remember it was formerly named "Live Super Doppler 9000".
Why is local radar important?
The nearest weather radar is located over 80 miles away in Green Bay. Other than mountainous areas in the Western U.S., central Wisconsin represents one of the few areas in the U.S. with such distant radar coverage. Other National Weather Service Radars that cover our area are located in Marquette Michigan, Duluth Minnesota, Minneapolis Minnesota, and La Crosse Wisconsin. These radars do a good job of detecting the majority of important weather that occurs in Northcentral Wisconsin. The NWS in coordination with spotters, local media, and law enforcement, is able to adequately warn us during times of severe weather
This does not mean that we cannot do better, and that is why StormTrak9 operates a radar right here in central Wisconsin. To understand how this increases our ability to detect important and dangerous weather I'll have to talk a little bit about how a radar works.
A weather radar sends out a beam of microwave light. That light reflects off of raindrops, snowflakes, and other precipitation that it encounters. We can tell where the precipitation is falling and how heavy it is by how much of this beam of "light" is reflected back to the radar. The beam is essentially a straight line but just like the light from a flashlight, it spreads out as it travels into the atmosphere. It is also getting higher above the ground the further it travels away from the radar. By the time the radar beam arrives over Wausau from Green Bay, La Crosse, or Duluth, the beam is more diffuse and 5,000 to 10,000 feet in the air. In contrast, the beam from Live StormTrak9 radar (located at CWA – Mosinee), is detecting conditions that are occurring closer to the ground. The beam from StormTrak9 radar is not even 1,000 feet in the air when it is sensing precipitation and winds around much of Marathon, Wood, and Portage counties. It also helps fill in some of the gaps in radar coverage for the rest of Northcentral Wisconsin. This means we can better see all of the "action". After all, tornadoes occur at the bottom of a thunderstorm, not in the middle or top.
For additional reading on the science of weather radars go here: http://www.cocorahs.org/media/docs/radar_basics.pdf
Here is a nice website where you can calculate for yourself how far above the earth radar beams will be at a given distance: http://www.wdtb.noaa.gov/tools/misc/beamwidth/beamwidth.html
Being able to see developing severe thunderstorm conditions and tornadoes in greater detail is one of the top benefits of having a local radar such as Live StormTrak9 radar. There are other benefits as well. During the winter, freezing drizzle and mist occur in the lowest couple thousand feet of the atmosphere. Live StormTrak9 radar can detect this precipitation while it is "invisible" to radars farther away. This means we can more adequately warn you of icy roadways while you commute to and from work and school during the winter.
Chief Meteorologist Justin Loew