Saturday, April 04, 2009


I am a fan of DOPPLER. You have seen it. If you live in central Alabama, you have seen it a lot in the past few weeks as Rich Thomas explained signatures indicating possible rotation. Doppler is the newest version of RADAR--RAdio Detection And Ranging. What the National Weather Service uses is WSR-88D from Weather Surveillance Radar--1988 Doppler. That and LOTS more basic info about radar can be found on the NOAA website. The reason I have been reading some of that is to check out some information I heard in a storm spotters class week before last. This is one of the many activities that filled my March to overflowing. I regretted that the class was on a Tuesday because I had to miss a night of counseling at Pre-Trial Diversion, but when I learned of a class in Wetumpka I knew it would be worth the time. Although the class is called Advanced Storm Spotter, most of the information is fairly basic. I did learn some about storm formation and intensity that will be useful. The reason I am writing this goes beyond telling that I went to the class and being silly about spotting a storm EVERY day since. And it is not intended to be instructional about radar. But when I went to verify some information from the class, I learned a lot about radar that I had not known. The bit of information that really struck me was the rate of sending and receiving information. As the radar antenna turns, it emits extremely short bursts of radio waves, called pulses. Each pulse lasts about 0.00000157 seconds with a 0.00099843-second "listening period" in between. The transmitted radio waves move through the atmosphere at about the speed of light. Some of you are much smarter than me and the impact of those number may hit you immediately. For me, though, these tiny fractions are akin to the billions and trillions the government is spending and giving away. If I can't envision a number of balls, coins, or widgets to represent the number, I can get lost in the number of zero's. Here is another way of looking at it that helps and this is really what impacted me; when the time of all pulses each hour are totaled (the time the radar is actually transmitting), the radar is "on" for a little over 7 seconds each hour. The remaining 59 minutes and 53 seconds are spent listening for any returned signals.
Okay, I will wait while you go back and read that last sentence again. Radar--that amazing technology that enables us to see green, yellow, and red indicating rates of precipitation and also shows direction and speed of storms along with much, much more information we could not get any other way--works by transmitting 7 seconds per hour and listening 59 minutes and 53 seconds per hour. Wow, could this explain why I have trouble communicating with my wife, friends, and co-workers? Is this why I can't hear the voice of God in my life? This ratio is shocking to me! While I attempt to work in the direction of 50/50 talking/listening, the reality is probably closer to the reverse of what radar accomplishes. I am more inclined to transmit 59 minutes and 53 seconds and listen 7 seconds. Ummm, actually I don't think I am that bad--but listening takes work and requires a break in transmitting. Of course radar has to transmit and do it properly in order to have anything to listen to.
So that is the best lesson from my Advanced Storm Spotters class--and it was not directly from the class. Actually, I found it because I was checking on some poor communication by the instructor. So I was listening some. This is just one observation I wanted to share from my whirlwind March. I placed it here because the thoughts and observations about birthdays, retirement parties, relationships, an unborn grandchild, and life transitions relate to listening in a powerful way. Thanks for reading--leave a note so I know you were here.


kk said...

Hi, Roxy!

Sorry I have been on the other end of the communication spectrum -- always reading and never giving you the compliments you deserve for taking the time to write and share -- this was "right on"


Lerra said...

I have just recently realized I need to be working on my "listening" skills...with people & with God. Work in progress, but I'm gonna try better. :-)