VIPIR, the Tornado Hunter

By Brad Spakowitz

Another exciting severe weather analysis tool we have in StormCenter 2 not only shows where precipitationis falling but can also show hail, damaging wind, and even tornadoes.

The sophisticated device can only be seen on WBAY-TV. It's called VIPIR, and it's our exclusive tornado and severe weather hunter.

VIPIR allows us to show the most dangerous parameters of a storm. At a single glance we can see hail, potentially damaging winds, and even tornados. VIPIR is able to do this by using doppler radar data and algorithms– computer programs used to analyze the radar information.

Here's how it works:

VIPIR patiently waits while the radar unit makes four complete scans of the atmosphere. First, a scan is made at one level, then advances to another level, then another and another.

As the doppler radar unit makes each scan, it looks not only at precipitation, location, and intensity but also at air in motion. This allows a calculation of wind direction and speed.

VIPIR takes all of this informaiton and gives us a 3-D view of the atmosphere.

Taking all of this data, VIPIR then creates an easy-to-understand visual representation of severe or potentially severe weather. It's that VIPIR television image that you see on your screen during our severe weather coverage.

Hail is depicted with a color table giving an indication of probable hail size.

Wind shear, the dangerous twisting of winds, is indicated by spinning circles. These areas have strong winds that may bring down trees or even damage buildings.

When the spinning circles start lining up at two or more levels in the atmosphere, we may be witnessing the formation of a tornado.