The Doppler Radar in Chanhassen Spots Something Unusual Saturday - KMSP-TV

The Doppler Radar in Chanhassen Spots Something Unusual Saturday

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Doppler radar is one of the greatest meteorological advancements in history because it's not only able to see precipitation, but also the direction its going and just how fast it's moving there.  Doppler is able to differentiate whether an object is moving toward or away from the radar by using what's called the Doppler Effect.  Named after the scientist who discovered it in the 1800's, the Doppler Effect is what happens to the perception of an object if it's moving toward or away from you.  Take a freight train for example.  You are standing next to railroad tracks as the train is moving toward you.  It blows its horn to warn you that it's on its way.  It has a very distinct high pitched screech.  As the train goes by, it blows its horn again.  Now, all of a sudden the horn changes pitch to a lower more muffled screech.  This is the Doppler Effect.  You get one pitch with the train coming at you and you get a different pitch when the train is moving away.   Doppler radar works the exact same way.  The Doppler Effect produces velocity data about objects at a distance. It beams a microwave signal towards a desired target (typically precipitation) and "listens" for its reflection.  It analyzes how the frequency of the returned signal has been altered by the object's motion and gives that object a color corresponding to the direction it interpreted.   

Now that we are all experts on Doppler, it's time to see something cool.  The National Weather Service posted a brief video of an event that happened early Saturday morning.  See if you can guess what it is.  The answer is posted below some come back when you have finished to get an explanation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxfBXDFp87E&feature=youtu.be

Here is the answer that is posted by the National Weather Service…

The location is Mystic Lake Casino where spotlights shine straight up in the air. The bright lights attract bugs, and the bugs attract predators such as bats or maybe birds. The radar beam is likely bending to a lower elevation, and seeing the bats/insects. What's puzzling is the clockwise rotation that is consistent until they all scatter at the end of the video.

The Doppler radar cannot distinguish precipitation from bugs, birds, trees, houses, wind turbines or any other object that it comes in contact with.  It is designed to "see" exceedingly tiny objects so there will be times when bugs, birds, and even aircraft will pollute the image that would otherwise signify rain, sleet, or snow.

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