When we decided to do a story about weather technology we contacted Fox 5 KVVU here in Las Vegas and they were kind enough to help us with our story. They put us in touch with their chief meteorologist
Stacy Donaldson and she let Nora Miranda interview her. This is a transcription of that interview.
Nora: Hello, my name is Nora Miranda and I work for Circles Magazine, right here in Las Vegas, and I’m doing an article about Weather Technology for our magazine. May I ask you some questions about it?
Nora: Where do you get information about the weather forecast?
Stacy: Well, I went to school for a really long time, it was probably about 7 years altogether, and you learn through all your classes how to put together a forecast and when to know if it’s going to rain, when the clouds are going to show up and how to make it understandable to your audience, because if you have all this technical stuff going on and you can’t communicate it then nobody is going to understand what you said, if you can’t communicate it, I mean like they will ask “Is it going to rain tomorrow? I don’t understand what she just said.”So it’s all in the translation of numbers and numerical miles so that everyone can understand.
Nora: How long have you worked for Fox 5 weather?
Stacy: I’ve worked in Las Vegas for one year now, through one and a half summers.
Nora: What technology do you use to know how it’s going to rain?
Stacy: Well we use a lot of different technologies to know if it’s going to rain or not, one of them if it is raining is Doppler radar and we use the radar to look out into the atmosphere to see whether or not there are raindrops coming down some other technologies that we use are current conditions and we can tell if the temperature or the humidity is going up on that day and satellite information, so satellite, radar and current conditions, also you look at the atmosphere at lots of different levels so we can see what major changes and say oh that might provide some rain later today.
Nora: What is radar used for?
Stacy: Radar is used to detect, it’s a radio wave that shoots up in the sky and it bounces off any particles in the air, it might be rain or it might be hail, it might be a big flock of birds, it might be a tall building but we can point it into different directions into the sky and it scans the atmosphere looking for things to bounce off of and when it bounces off some rain it takes a while to get back so you know that there is rain out there.
Nora: What do you use to know how fast the wind is blowing?
Stacy: We use something called and anemometer it’s kind of a little machine that has cups on it, four cups, and when the wind blows it spins the cups around, and depending on how fast the cups spin that tells us how fast the wind is blowing. So it’s just like how a thermometer measure the temperature an anemometer measure the wind and a cyclometer measures the humidity and a barometer measures the pressure.
Nora: What instruments do you use most to tell weather in Las Vegas?
Stacy: I use the information that comes from the national weather service a lot because they give us the current conditions and they also send up a weather balloon twice a day , they lift off this balloon that goes up in the sky and takes readings as it’s going up so we can look at the atmosphere like a slice of cake, you know like a cake and it has all the different layers of the cake with the frosting in between, that’s how we look at the atmosphere in different levels. And that tells us what is going to happen next, so when we interpret this information we use it to see what
the weather is going to be in Las Vegas we use radar every now and then, but it doesn’t rain a whole lot in Las Vegas, but we use a small scale model and a large scale model to tell what the conditions will be like in Las Vegas.
Nora: How do you know when a tornado is going to happen?
Stacy: Well just like I mentioned small scale forecasting and large scale forecasting, The national weather service does send out a large scale forecast that cover the US these are areas on the east coast or the west coast that might have severe weather on that day. We take all the information as a local meteorologist and put it together and figure whether we are going to have severe weather such as a tornado or some gusty winds.
Nora: How much has weather technology changed in the past ten years?
Stacy: I don’t think it’s changed dramatically but there are certain things on that help forecasters get the word out to everybody that severe weather is coming, and especially here in the tv news business there are programs that work with our weather computer that really easily point out certain things say like before a tornado if it were on the radar there is a program that would spin in a circle on there if there were going to be a tornado, but that is easy for anyone to see not just a meteorologist, but even if your home you see that spinning thing and you say oh no that looks like it will be coming our way, it’s good for people in
Nora: What technology do you use to show the weather on TV?those states because it’s like a warning sign.