5.6 Lightning Channel Detection Using Radar and the North Georgia Lightning Mapping Array

Wednesday, 9 January 2019: 11:45 AM
North 225AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
John M. Trostel, Georgia Tech. Research Institute, Atlanta, GA; and E. F. Greneker, J. L. Losego, and M. R. Frank

Researchers in the Severe Storms Research Center (SSRC) at the Georgia Tech Research Institute have collected concurrent radar backscatter and lightning mapping array data from lightning channels produced during nearby electrically active thunderstorms.

The lightning discharge event creates plasma along the discharge path. Plasma generated at the time of an electrical discharge becomes reflective of radar signals for a short duration— typically on the order of several hundred milliseconds. The S-Band Furuno marine radar utilized by the SSRC as a lightning channel detection radar for this investigation operates at a frequency of 3.030 GHz. A 1 microsecond 60,000 Watt pulse of energy transmitted by the radar has the ability to illuminate the lightning discharge path. The backscatter reflected from the lightning channel is captured by the radar antenna, and the X-Y location of the trail is displayed on a plan position indicator (PPI). The antenna performs a full 360 degrees scan approximately every 2.2 seconds. This rapid scan rate ensures that numerous lightning events within nearby thunderstorms are able to be detected and displayed.

The North Georgia Lightning Mapping Array (NGLMA) operated by the SSRC is centered on the metropolitan Atlanta area in north Georgia. The NGLMA uses 11 ground-based sensing stations to detect total lightning, which is the combination of cloud-to-ground and intracloud lightning. Data from the NGLMA is displayed in New Mexico Tech’s XLMA software at the specific times that the radar detected a lightning channel.

This paper discusses the radar energy scattering phenomena, the period of time over which lightning channels are detectable, and presents several photographs of the PPI display showing the detected lightning channels. Furthermore, this paper delves into temporal and spatial comparisons of the radar data to total lightning data collected by the NGLMA. In several cases, the time and location of the radar data matches the NGLMA data.

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