This third and final lesson in our basic “How to Read Weather Radar” series will take a look at some of the other products that weather radars can produce. Many of these images are exceptionally helpful to determine a storms strength.
Vertically Integrated Liquid (VIL): This has been primarily used to detect the presence of hail inside of thunderstorms, though some studies have indicated this approach isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. VIL measures the size and density of precipitation within storms. The theory goes something like this: the higher the VIL value the more likely hail is occurring.
Without diving too much into the weeds, the basic approach to VIL is that when you see higher VIL values, the odds are higher that hail is occurring. So driver beware.
Echo Tops: This is probably one of our favorite products here at Tornado Titans. Echo Tops are extremely useful as storms are forming to discern which updraft may become dominant in a target. Echo Tops sound like what they are — they are the measurement of the highest radar indicated area of precipitation.
So why are echo tops so important? They can be a great way to measure the intensity of a storm. A storm with higher echo tops than those around it is probably the one to watch. Inversely, if a storm still looks healthy on reflectivity but its echo tops have begun to fall, you will likely notice that the storm will be weakening on reflectivity soon enough.
Rainfall Products: These are great to determine the possibility of Flash Flooding ongoing with storms. For storm chasers/enthusiasts, it is best to be mindful of this potential when working around storms.