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Ok, now that you're all on our Facebook page you may have seen (or will see) Brian, Brandon or I post something like this:
Now I know this potentially looks bad. I mean, we are meteorologist after all.. we should ALWAYS know what is going on with the weather right?!
Even though we have our programs, websites, apps, etc. sometimes we need to do a little bit of digging to know exactly what is going on. That's where you come in.. and here's why.
Radar works like this:
Basically you shoot a spinning radar beam into the sky and if there is precipitation a signal will be sent back to the radar.
Here's why things get a bit tricky in the Magic Valley. First of all this is a high dessert climate which features a lot of virga. If you don't know what virga is check out this link www.kmvt.com/weather/blog/Southern-Idaho-Weatherisms-182844021.html. When virga is happening the radar will show that there is moisture in the atmosphere but the moisture will not end up reaching the ground.
Another issue that can arise comes from the fact that we don't have a radar here in Twin Falls. There is a radar signal in Boise which is approximately 130 miles away and there is one in Pocatello which is about 115 miles away. Since we don't have one here we have to rely on what the other two radars are picking up.
Since both radars are so far away the curvature of the Earth comes into play. A radar beam shoots at an angle and the farther an object is from the radar site the lower the chances are that the radar will pick up on it. I think this picture does a good job of visually explaining this scenario:
This is why it'll sometimes be raining or snowing here but you won't see anything showing up on radar.. the surrounding radar beams are shooting above the precipitation. When this happens airport reports and ground reports become key for us meteorologists. Usually we have a good grasp on what is happening but getting first hand accounts leave no doubt about the current conditions.
So the next time we get on Facebook and ask you to share what the weather is doing in your city don't worry - we're not slacking - we're just trying to get the most accurate information so we can provide you with the highest quality forecast possible.
By the way, if you are interested in becoming a trained storm spotter check out this link - www.nws.noaa.gov/training/wxspot.php
Meteorologist, Nick Kosir