Radar spots Hawaiian volcano eruption

Early Thursday the show continued when the Kilauea volcano's summit rocketed ash and smoke thousands of feet into the air. (Source: USGS)

It's been a wild couple of weeks in Hawaii as volcanic activity has kept the world's attention captive.

Early Thursday the show continued when the Kilauea volcano's summit rocketed ash and smoke thousands of feet into the air.

While this was visible to many on the ground, a very important weather tool also was able to spot it.

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Doppler radar!

Check out the image below from the National Weather Service.

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It shows a 3-D scan from the radar showing ash and smoke being lofted high into the air.

Emissions from the volcano reached as high as 12,000 feet in the air.

[RELATED: Ash clouds from Kilauea volcano prompt red alert on Hawaii's Big Island]

That is easily as tall as some of the monsoon thunderheads we see here in the summer in Arizona.

The radar sensing the smoke plume is no different from it sensing a thunderstorm.

[READ MORE: Summit of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts, launching plume of ash and smoke]

The radar beam zips through the air. When it hits something like rain, it bounces back to the radar terminal showing something is out there.

In most situations what the radar “sees“ are meteorological targets such as rain, snow and hail.

But in some situations, like with this volcano, the radar can see other things.

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In some cases, a radar can see bugs, bird migrations, cars on a freeway and even a train passing by!

Pretty neat stuff!

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