A WEATHER radar for the North East which can "read" the size of a raindrop or snowflake was officially launched yesterday.
The radar, at a remote spot at High Moorsley on the rural edge of Sunderland, will help protect the region against flooding and improve weather forecasts.
Northumbrian Water, the Met Office and the Environment Agency have invested more than £1m in the radar, whose dome rotates through 360 degrees, sending out microwave impulses.
These pulses “bounce” back to the radar from raindrops or snowflakes and provide information on the position, movement and intensity of rain or snow.
The picture is updated every five minutes and will allow forecasts for six hours in advance. It will be especially useful in identifying short, intense bursts of rain which often cause flash flooding and drain overflows, and which are likely to increase with climate change.
It is the first time the North East has had its own radar. Previously the region was covered in 5km squares by stations in Lancashire and Scotland.
The North East radar will now give improved and detailed coverage of 2km squares in Northumberland and 1km in Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside.
Weather radar adviser at the Met Office, Bill Wheeler, said: “Climate change will bring with it the risk of more extreme rainfall in the future. This will allow us to better forecast heavy rainfall and the risk of potential flooding across the North East.”
David Chapman, Northumbrian Water’s climate change manager, said: “Severe and localised rainfall presents many challenges. The weather radar is a huge step forward in our ability to collect rainfall data .”
Phil Marshall, Environment Agency flood risk team leader, said: “Recent flooding in the North East has shown it is vital to be able to predict where and when rain will fall.”
For the latest forecast, go to www.journallive.co.uk/weather