Do reds, purples on radar always mean stronger storms? - CBS46 News

Do reds, purples on radar always mean stronger storms?

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Most of us are pretty familiar with the colors on radar going from pink/purple to show heavier rain, but do those changing colors always mean stronger storms?

Not always.

Most of the time you see reds and purples on a radar, it's showing strong storms over that area, but technically the colors on radar only tell us how heavy the rain is, not how strong a storm is. Because stronger storms translate to heavier rain, we've all become accustomed to one meaning the other, but there's only one true indicator of storms on radar.


If you're looking for storms, always look for lightning since a storm -- by definition -- includes lightning. The more lighting you see in a storm, the stronger it typically is.

When do reds and purples NOT mean strong storms?

Sometimes you'll see reds and purples on radar -- and our forecast models -- that indicate heavy rain, but don't indicate storms. This typically occurs when there is plenty of moisture to support heavier rain (indicated by the colors), but not enough instability to support thunder. Tropical rain in the summer can often times be heavy without thunder, while heavier rain in the winter can also come without thunder due to the lack of intense heat. 

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