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New Shropshire radar will allow Met Office to measure snowflakes

By Dominic Robertson | South Shropshire | News | Published:

It is said that no two snowflakes are the same – but now a new radar in Shropshire will allow the Met Office to measure the actual shape and size of those landing in the county.

Close-up of a snowflake. Photo: Alexey Kljatov.

The radar, at Clee Hill, is one of 15 across the UK that have been upgraded as part of a £10 million programme.

The new technology means that for the first time the Met Office will be able to capture the size and shape of raindrops and snowflakes, together with wind speed data.

It will also allow the organisation to accurately tell the difference between rain, snow and hail and, more importantly, tell people how much they think it will rain.

The Clee Hill radar covers a surrounding area up to 250km, including parts of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and the West Midlands.

The head of the Met Office public weather service Derrick Ryall said the radar would make it easier to forecast the location of downpours.

He said: "Weather radar provides the only means of measuring the spatial extent and distribution of rainfall over a wide geographical area.

"The most intense rainfall events are often highly localised and can therefore be missed or under-sampled by rain gauge networks, and while their occurrence can be forecast with skill, it is often not currently possible to forecast their exact location.

"Radar therefore provides a crucial input to short-range weather forecasts (nowcasts) of precipitation rate, and improves the skill of weather forecasts when it is assimilated into numerical weather prediction models."

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The radar can now record 1,800,000 rainfall observations per hour, per radar – measuring rainfall from up to 250km away

Carol Holt, deputy director for the Environment Agency, said the new equipment would also help make sure people are more prepared for floods.

She said: "This joint project with the Met Office is just one of the many exciting ways the Environment Agency is making the most of new technology to prepare for and respond to floods.

“The quality and reliability of the data we are getting from the new radars is significantly improved and will help us to provide more accurate flood forecasts and issue flood warnings earlier. This means people have more time to prepare when flooding is expected – so please check whether your home is at risk and sign up to receive our free warnings.”

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The £10 million pound upgrade was jointly funded by the Met Office and the Environment Agency.

The Met Office radar network includes 15 radars across the UK, the oldest at Hameldon Hill, near Burnley in Manchester, has been operating since 1974.

The new radar system was developed in-house by Met Office engineers and has a number of unique capabilities not found on commercial radar.

The organisation delivers 4.5 million forecasts every day, supporting both the UK public and industry.

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