With rain and snow mixing more frequently in our area, our radar images on television and the web have become more colorful. Most of us are now use to seeing radar images that will try to show where the precipitation is rain, snow or a mix of the two. These types of images are so common place that many people actually think that the radar is capable of differentiating between rain and snow.
Truth is, the radar is simply sending pulses of energy into the atmosphere and then measures the amount of energy returned backed. This helps us determine the intensity of the precipitation, but nothing more. Our computer system on the other hand, uses algorithms (a series of mathematical formulas) based on the temperature, humidity levels and surface reports that attempts to estimate what type of precipitation is falling. The system is far from perfect, but it is good enough to be useful to both meteorologists and the public at large.