Out on south Pleasant Valley Road, about six miles south of the airport near the Wild Horse Corrals, there is a large brown “ball,” approximately 20-30 feet in diameter, mounted on scaffolding above the ground. What is it?
-Linda Sevison, Boise
BOISE - If you’ve driven toward the prison or other areas south of town on Pleasant Valley – it is hard to miss. A giant sphere hoisted several hundred feet in the air.
The big brown structure sits on scaffolding – a few yards from the road. Despite its size, the ball is otherwise unremarkable – all alone among the tumbleweeds.
But inside the sphere is an array of advanced equipment, constantly monitoring the world outside. The big structure is actually the Boise site for the National Weather Service’s NEXRAD program. You might know it better as just plain old “radar.”
"It is our bread and butter tool for detecting precipitation, rain, snow and clouds,” National Weather Service Meteorologist George Skari said. “It can even detect cars on the freeway."
The radar runs nearly all the time – constantly scanning the skies for incoming storms. It allows forecasters – and even Internet surfers at home – to keep an eye on the weather.
“It’s a huge boon to our efforts to forecast the weather."
The radar is mounted more than 200 feet in the air, and the protective coating is painted brown to better fit in with the dusty, desert terrain found south of Boise. Skari says the color varies from place to place – with green in forested areas and even white in some areas.
The radar sends out a series of electro-magnetic pulses that bounce off objects. It then picks up the return signal and a series of computers match the data to a map, helping forecasters know the intensity of incoming precipitation.
You can check out the results of that system any time with our 24 interactive radars!