“I have radar”! That convenient feature has spawned many people into believing that they have the weather answer as soon as they tap their favorite app. However, what you see isn’t always what you get.
Most people know that the more orange and red they see on the radar, the more likely that the rain is much heavier in intensity.
Seems simple enough, right? What these apps don’t tell you is that their radar feature is most likely a composite reflectivity image.
A composite reflectivity image takes the highest intensity reflectivity it sees (several locations) and combines them into one image. This can be misleading because precipitation that the radar detects at the higher tilts often does not reach the ground, but is still displayed on the composite reflectivity image. This can make it look like you are going to get rain, when in reality you won’t get any precipitation at all. That can be very costly to construction companies or snow removal crews!
Using a base reflectivity image can help you solve this dilemma. A base reflectivity image is the actual display of what the radar “sees” in one tilt. So as a result, when the radar rotates at its’ lowest tilt in the atmosphere, you will only see the precipitation that is present in that lowest level. Since much of the reflectivity that is visible in the lowest tilt of the radar does reach the ground, this can be very helpful in discerning whether or not you are going to get weather or not!
Decision Making Tip: Use the “composite radar or regional view” to get a heads-up for potential inclement weather impacts for your business operations. Then monitor your local radar (single radar site) on the base reflectivity option for a more precise more realistic representation of precipitation that is truly reaching the ground.
Although professional meteorologists rely on much more than radar to help companies make the safest and most profitable decisions, using this “composite versus single site” radar tip could make you look a little smarter the next time you pull out your smart phone as the sky darkens.