Modern Meterology


Who should be credited with inventing weather radar?

No one person decided to use radar for weather forecasts. With the technology already in place, it was simply adapted to this purpose when experiments in Britain and the United States showed that radio waves bounced off clouds. Radar was first used to specifically obtain weather data in 1949, but it was not until the mid-1950s that a weather station using radar technology was established in the United States. This happened after the Eastern seaboard was hit by two vicious hurricanes in 1954 and 1955. The U.S. Weather Bureau was then authorized by Congress to create a national weather radar grid, and so the Weather Surveillance Radar (WSR-57) was founded in 1957. WSR systems used vacuum tubes and other technologies that were becoming outdated by the late 1970s. Despite the fact that vacuum tubes were in short supply, and other parts had to be hand-machined in order to keep the weather system running, Congress did not approve replacing the system until the 1990s.

The first National Severe Storms Laboratory radar, shown in this 1971 photo, was constructed in Norman, Oklahoma. This early radar, with a 30-foot (3-meter) dish, eventually led to the development of the NEXRAD WSR-88D radar. (NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory)

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