Minnesota National Weather Service stations plan to install new technology on Monday that should allow meteorologists to issue severe weather warnings with greater precision.
Chanhassen weather service meteorologist Dan Luna says the new technology is part of the agency's nationwide $50 million upgrade to the radar system over the next two weeks. He says it's the first hardware upgrade since 1988.
Luna says the technology will allow the weather service to better distinguish between different types of precipitation. He says NWS staff will also be able to verify at close range when a tornado is on the ground.
"And that might sound a little funny, you might think, well, gee, you just look out the window and you might see a tornado," Luna says, "but the issue for us is when it's dark. In the dark it's very hard to tell, but this radar upgrade will sense debris far superior compared to the previous radar technology we had."
Luna adds that NWS staff members will be able to identify the precise shape of the particles that make up precipitation like raindrops.
"And you might wonder, 'Well who cares, what's the difference?' It gives us a better idea of how hard it's raining, how much rain we're getting, and a better idea in terms of issuing flash flood warnings with greater precision," he says.
NWS stations will take operations offline for a short time while installing the upgrades. Luna says no severe weather is expected during that time.