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Radar Use in Rainfall Measurements


  1. Theodore A. Endreny

Published Online: 15 APR 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.me266

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Endreny, T. A. 2005. Radar Use in Rainfall Measurements. Water Encyclopedia. 4:306–309.

Author Information

  1. SUNY ESF, Syracuse, New York

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2005


Meteorologists, hydrologists, and other environmental scientists use microwave radar (radio detection and ranging) techniques to observe remotely the location, type, and intensity of atmospheric precipitation. Doppler radar units provide an additional measurement of storm movement and wind rotational strength. Hence, microwave radar units are used for remotely sensing precipitation and winds.

Radar operates by emitting electromagnetic radiation into the air at various scan heights and then detecting the part of that radiation that is reflected back by hydrometeors (e.g., backscattered) to the radar device and considered reflectivity. Hydrometeors refer to liquid and frozen precipitation, but backscattering can also occur from large flocks of birds, insects, and other large airborne particles. Based on the density, size, and shape of the hydrometeors (e.g., spherical liquid vs. angular frozen crystals) and the polarization of the radar beam, the algorithms processing the radar signal can determine precipitation type and intensity.


  • Doppler;
  • hourly rainfall product;
  • microwave radar;
  • spatial estimates;
  • storm track;
  • wind shear;
  • rain intensity;
  • satellites