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Where Was the Snow on the MaxTrack? - LEX18.com | Continuous News and StormTracker Weather

Where Was the Snow on the MaxTrack?

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The most recent winter storm isn't going away quietly. A number of us experienced occasional flurries and light snow this morning. We received reports from viewers of light snow in Frankfort, Lexington, and Nicholasville. Blue Grass Airport even observed measurable precipitation with the passing light snow showers. Visibility was also diminished at the airport.

We were able to get ground confirmation from our network of WeatherBug cameras in these locations. We spotted the snow blanketing the streets of downtown Lexington, along with reduced visibility, during one of the bursts of light snow.

But if you checked the MaxTrack Live Doppler on air, online, or on the LEX 18 StormTracker Weather app, there was nothing.

This may have had you scratching your head and wondering how the snow disappeared. The snow didn't vanish. Local radars were just having a hard time "seeing" the snow.

Our MaxTrack is a priceless tool for tracking storms and snow around central and eastern Kentucky. Here's how it works. The radar sends out a pulse of radio waves. The beam comes into contact with different objects like raindrops and snowflakes, or other non-meteorological objects like insects and debris. The radar then "listens" for the response as the signal bounces back. The return signal is displayed on our sweeping radar map.

The pulse of energy is sent out at multiple elevations. Objects in close proximity to the radar site are seen quite on the lower elevation scans. However, the further away from the radar you are, the higher the angle of the beam is. The higher elevation scans can "overshoot" objects close to the radar, or objects that are low in the sky.

During the wintertime, clouds don't grow very tall and sit lower in the sky. If these low-hanging clouds happen to be producing snow, the radar beam can shoot right over top of them, completely miss any snowflakes. That is what happened this morning. There was a shallow moisture layer in the lower layers of the atmosphere. The MaxTrack, which is located on the northeast side of Lexington, was even overshooting the snow showers that developed in town. Another part of the story is that these snowflakes were so fine that the radar may not have even seen them. We jokingly call this the "silent 20%." First, not everyone saw snow this morning, and these flakes can going undetected on radar.

This is not uncommon during the winter months. (It can even occur during other parts of the year with drizzle.) That is why we also rely on live cameras, airport observations, and your reports and photos. So keep them coming.

- Meteorologist Jill Szwed

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