Home > Technology > Neat – doppler radar mistakes wind turbines for tornadoes

Neat – doppler radar mistakes wind turbines for tornadoes

2009/08/30

I live in a tornado-prone area, so this immediately caught my eye.

Software can easily filter out buildings, cell towers and mountain ridges on radar screens. Yet because weather radar seeks motion to warn of storms, there’s no way to filter out the spinning blades.

Microwave radio signals are beamed toward a particular point and meteorologists listen for the “reflection.” Experts can pick out the shape of a storm, or a tornado.

The splatter of green, yellow, orange and red on Doppler screens that are caused by wind farms can look very much like a tornado or a storm.

via The Daily Herald

Part of me found it quite amusing; another part a little terrifying.

It also speaks to the potential pitfalls of relying solely on software to make life and death decisions. As the article notes, it’s dangerous for a meteorologist to ignore a signal near a wind turbine (assuming it’s just the blades) when there actually is a tornado and it’s also dangerous for the meteorologist to report false information, that there is a tornado, (assuming it’s not the turbines) when there is no tornado. The latter situation reduces the efficacy of the warning system, the boy crying wolf scenario. You get Type I and Type II errors all for trying to be a good eco-citizen.

I’d think, though, that they could get the coordinates of the turbines and add some code to go ‘hey, there’s a tornado near wind turbine x and the tornado’s not moving really anywhere so maybe it isn’t a tornado.” I guess that’s harder than it sounds.

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