How Does Weather Radar Work? – Explained in Details 2022

Did you ever experience a situation where you are watching a sporting event on TV, and suddenly the commentators mention an upcoming rainfall? Sounds quite mysterious, right?

A question might pop into your mind that ‘How are these people predicting the weather in advance?’ Yes, there are traditional ways to gather weather information, but you will be surprised to know that the radar is used for measuring and forecasting the weather.

However, from the following article, we will be covering a lot of information about weather radar and the way it works. Let’s check it out.


In 1886, it started its journey when a scientist named Heinrich Hertz claimed that radio signals could reflect when it hits an object. The abbreviation of Radar is ‘Radio Detection and Ranging’.

During World War II, used it to locate enemy aircraft, and in the meantime, the radar operators found out that can also use this device to detect rainfalls.

After the war came to an end, different scientists experimented with it. Thus, it became a beneficial device for meteorological departments and governments throughout the world.

Weather Radar: What is it?

Weather Radar What is it

It is the equipment used to observe and detect different types of precipitation like snow, hail, and rainfall. It sends signals in the form of electromagnetic or microwaves, and the time it gets reflected, the equipment receives it.

The receiving signal is known as echoes. After that, it is further analyzed to extract the necessary information.

How does it Work?

A weather radar is made with a transmitter and receiver. When it rotates, the transmitter emits radio waves (electromagnetic or microwaves), and the distance it covers is up to 200 km or 124 miles (maximum).

If there is rain, snow, or hail, the signal will get hit immediately, and the reflected wave will come back to the radar tower. Then interpret this new signal (echo), and lots of information will get revealed.

In this case, the length of time is an essential aspect of forecasting the weather. It gives you an idea about the total distance between the precipitation and radar. If the distance is large, it means the precipitation is quite distant and will take time to come closer.

Plus, the strength or intensity of the echo will give you an idea of whether it will rain, snow or hail. Frequencies are transmitted after 6 to 10 minutes continuously, and when the results arrive in the form of an animated image, it generates a loop for 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, the image from the radar is not clear enough to give you a precise forecast. Nevertheless, it will help you out track the location of the rainfall and the current direction it is following.

The latest version comes with a color display system. Results that are captured can be observed from the color image. A color scale is installed to display the strength of the precipitation. If the color is black, it means it is very powerful. In some of the cases, black indicates hail as well. Moreover, this scale is also used to specify the amount of rainfall.

You must always read the weather scale because it has a description of the entire color image. It will help you to understand which one you are analyzing currently.

In-Depth Explanation of Radar Image


All the information generated from the radar is converted into data, and you will be able to view all of it on a map. To understand it clearly, you have to go to the radar pages of the meteorology company website or app.

Radar Image

At the bottom of each radar image, a timestamp is displayed as Universal (Greenwich) Mean Time or UTC. So, when you get to view the picture, you will find out when you created the image in the first place.

It won’t be a problem whether the image is in another country or time zone. You will surely get accurate results. According to the situation, you can also go on the radar map and choose features like topography, location, rivers, lakes, etc.

There are other types of radars known as Doppler radars which display the wind speed and direction. For the direction, it will give you an idea of whether the wind is coming or moving away from the radar.

Nowadays, lots of weather stations use an anemometer to measure wind speed and direction. Meteorologists consider it as one of the essential tools to study weather patterns.


Along with the benefits, the radar has some limitations that should take into consideration. Here are all of them.

  • The optimal range of the radar is limited, unfortunately. It can go within 5 to 200 km (3 to 124 miles). It happens because due to the curved shape of the earth. The beam always moves in a straight line. So when it crosses the maximum distance, it is unable to track any objects.
  • If it can’t track any precipitation after the maximum distance, it might not reflect properly, giving a false reading. Hence, you must always observe and calculate within its given range to prevent any hassle from occurring.
  • As the water drops from the drizzle are smaller than rain, it becomes challenging to detect when it gets nearer to the ground. Due to the size of the water droplet is small, the radar signal fails to bounce back most of the time.
  • There is a term known as ‘Cone of silence’, which happens when the radar cannot detect echoes because it gets either too close or on top of the radar.
  • In some cases, you will experience a different thing. The weather equipment will provide readings in a usual manner. You might forecast the incoming precipitation, but it will turn out that the emitted signal got hit by smoke, insects, or even birds. As a result, some of your precious will get wasted.
  • The beams or signals can’t go through different structures like buildings or mountains. So when setting up this equipment, one should take the height and the location very seriously.


If you are interested in gathering information about your area’s weather condition, use the weather radio. Tune in to the radio station, and you are all set.

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Enjoy your day!

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