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Smoke from Minneapolis riots detected on weather radar Friday morning

Dual-pol radar technology can often detect smoke from wildfires. This morning, that was detected downwind of the fires in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. – Overnight, violence erupted in Minneapolis in reaction to the death of George Floyd. Fire was set to a number of establishments, and the smoke from these fires is being seen on weather radar displays.

Weather radar has many different purposes. Most commonly, we see it put to use almost daily to track rain, storms, snow, etc.

Radar can be broken down into different products. These products can be useful when trying to detect rotation in a thunderstorm, when trying to diagnose how heavily rain is falling, when detecting debris or when forecasting air quality in wildfires.

I showed radar’s versatility nearly four years ago when a massive wildfire took over the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

I hope this is the last time I ever have to show you something like this. That's not rain. That's a smoke plume from the fires in Gatlinburg. Rain is on the way, but strong winds are making things extremely tough south of here...

Posted by Chris Michaels WSLS 10 News on Monday, November 28, 2016

The radar display this time around isn’t as pronounced, but it does show smoke particles being lofted into the air downwind of the Minneapolis fires. I screen-grabbed a scan from the Minneapolis-St. Paul radar early Friday morning.

Smoke from Minneapolis radar after fires
Smoke from Minneapolis radar after fires

The top half of the picture shows reflectivity, which is the radar product that commonly detects precipitation and precipitation types. This shows some very weak “echoes” downwind of Minneapolis.

The bottom half is more telling. This is a product called correlation coefficient that will differentiate between rain drops and “non-hydrometeors,” or things that aren’t rain. The streak of blue falls in line with the weak echoes on reflectivity, indicating that this is indeed smoke being lofted into the air.

Meanwhile, radar closer to home will light up in a more conventional way Friday afternoon as we track scattered storms. Be sure to check here for the full forecast.


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