A hookup to the sophisticated weather radar system at Hill Air Force Base will give weather forecasters along the Wasatch Front a clearer picture of impending storms, meteorologist William J. Alder said Friday.

Alder and technicians from the Hill radar unit displayed the system at the National Weather Service's forecast center at the Salt Lake Airport.Alder said the NWS has a direct line to the Hill radar system and sees the same radar image on its own screens. The two services have been sharing information for years, Alder said, but usually verbally and by telephone.

The new hookup gives NWS forecasters direct access to the information. That will save time, especially in issuing severe weather warnings from impending thunderstorms and squall lines, Alder said.

The NWS has been using air traffic control radar since the 1960s, Alder said, which is good for spotting and tracking aircraft but not really designed to spot weather systems.

The radar installed in 1987 at Hill is specifically designed for weather application. Although on line since January 1987, it has taken until now to get permission for the civilian agency to tap into the Air Force system, he said.

Master Sgt. Rich Goodman said the unit scans an area from around Malad in southern Idaho west to Wendover and south to Utah County. The Wasatch Front to the east effectively blocks any image in that direction, he said.

Alder said tapping into the Air Force system will greatly increase the accuracy of the NWS's short-term forecasts, from two to four hours. It will allow the NWS to issue more accurate warnings on the approach of thunderstorms especially, Alder said, which in the summer are frequently accompanied by high winds or microbursts that reach 40 to 50 mph.

The Salt Lake NWS center is only the second in the country to share information from Air Force radar systems, he said.