Cone Of Silence, Explained

A Radar Phenomenon

Cone Of Silence, Explained
Cone of silence refers to an area surrounding the radar that doesn't receive data due to the fact that it only has a maximum tilt of 19.5 degrees.
Cone of silence as seen at the Chanhassen, MN Doppler Radar.
Cone of silence as seen at the Chanhassen, MN Doppler Radar.

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - You might remember the cone of silence as one of Max’s go to gadgets on the 1960′s comedy television series, Get Smart. If that was before your time maybe you remember the movie Twister? One scene shows a tornado dissipating, an actor claims the tornado is not “done yet” as another actor walks into frame claiming “it’s the cone of silence”.

Well, the real cone of silence is no laughing matter and no it has nothing to do with tornadoes as they dissipate. The real cone of silence is a term used to explain the missing data that occurs when storms pass over a radar site.

Weather radar or Doppler radar is a cool and powerful instrument that meteorologist rely heavily on for tracking a variety of weather phenomenon. It can help identify different precipitation, weather features such as developing tornadoes and even biological matter. It can also scans the sky at different rotating intervals based on the type of weather we are dealing with.

However, it is not perfect, which brings us back to the phrase the cone of silence. Doppler radar has a maximum tilt of 19.5 degrees. So when a storm is near or over the radar, the data becomes unavailable, resulting in a ominous looking hole. This hole can block potential dangerous ongoing and/or developing weather. The good news is meteorologist have a way of working around this issue. There are 155 Doppler radars nation wide where meteorologist can switch to, in order to help fill the missing data.

So the next time you come across this spooky looking phenomenon, don’t fret. It’s not the upside down trying to burst through into our world. It simply is the cone of silence.

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