Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Friday, April 6, 2007 - 5:40PM

Here it comes

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Some destabilizing sunshine today has contributed to some potent snow showers firing early this afternoon. Here is Charleston's radar image from 5:40PM EDT:

RLX NEXRAD radar image - Charleston is in the center

The weird red-orange-purple-white color scheme here is a result of the radar being in 'clear-air mode', as opposed to 'precipitation mode'. When the radar is in clear-air mode, it is more sensitive, and shows stronger-looking returns for clouds and precip. Heavier and more widespread precipitation will trigger the radar to automatically switch to precip mode, which is the classic green-yellow-orange-red color scheme for rain showers and storms. Snow tends to have a weaker radar signature than rain of similar intensity, so many times the radar will stay in clear-air mode throughout an entire snow event.

It's going to be a long night.

UPDATE: Not minutes after I finished this post, the radar switched to 'precipitation mode' due to the coverage and intensity of the precip echoes around Charleston. So, here you get a rare glimpse of the moment the radar changes over from clear-air to precip mode.

RLX NEXRAD radar image - precip mode

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