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Weather radar helps predict bird migrations

Cara J

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Weather radar is usually collected by the National Weather Service to help people know what to wear outside or if any big storms are coming, but it can also help predict continental-scale bird migrations. In a study published in Science, a research team created a model that can automatically turn weather radar data into avian migration predictions. “Using weather radar to study birds is not a new idea and people have been using radar to study birds since radar was invented around World War II,” said Benjamin Van Doren, the lead author of the study and a PhD student at the University of Oxford. “But what is really new about our study is the scale at which we are applying radar to look at bird migration.” A bird appears like a “large raindrop” on weather radar, but those appearances usually get filtered out by meteorologists, Van Doren said. When the researchers collected the raw data, they filtered out the precipitation instead to get bird numbers. Using radar data of the atmosphere taken every five to 10 minutes, Van Doren and his colleagues looked at springtime bird migration across the continental United States for about 30 minutes each night corresponding with [...]

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