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An example of detection of a hook echo using radar
NWSFO/Tuslas, OK

Does wind have an effect on radio waves?

Wind does not have an effect on radio waves. Radio waves have a rather long wavelength, from 10 to 100 meters. Wind cannot affect radio waves because the air particles associated with wind are far too small for the radio wave to bounce off of. Radio waves can only bounce off of large objects.

Wind can be measured by Doppler radar. Doppler radar uses microwaves instead of radio waves. Microwaves have a wavelength of 0.001 meters. Microwaves are a lot smaller and can detect clouds, dust, and precipitation.

A Doppler radar dish sends out pulses of microwaves into the atmosphere. The microwaves bounce off objects (clouds, precipitation, and dust particles) and bounce back to the radar dish. The returned waves tell meteorologists how far away the precipitation is, as well as whether it's moving toward or away from the dish.

Since clouds, precipitation, and dust particles are transported by the wind, meteorologists can determine the speed and direction of the wind! In fact, a special type of instrument called a wind profiler uses Doppler radar to determine wind speed and direction every day. And you thought meteorologists only used weather vanes!


Submitted by John (Ohio, USA)
(February 16, 1998)



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