How are tornadoes spotted on radar?

Weather Blog

Dear Tom,
I have always found it fascinating that National Weather Service people can spot tornadoes on radar? How do they do it?

Lizzie Thompson, Batavia

Dear Lizzie,
“Hook echoes” on weather radars have served as one of the best indicators of rotating, potentially tornado-producing thunderstorms. Named for its hooked shape, such echoes result from the swirl of raindrops within a severe thunderstorm. The problem is, only some tornadic storms produce these distinctive radar signatures.
Computers are tied to Doppler radars and programmed with storm-seeking algorithms — instructions on how tornadic thunderstorms appear on radars. Sets of radar-detected storm attributes unique to tornadoes prompt meteorologists to further analyze certain cells for issuing tornado warnings.


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