Can total lightning data help give warning lead time for non-supercell tornadoes?
Much research, mostly done in the 1980s, established that the non-supercell tornado occurs as an incipient low-level circulation, typically pre-existing along a boundary and often before any storm forms, is stretched in the vertical by the updraft of a cell growing over the low-level circulation. It stands to reason then that observations of the behavior of in-cloud (or total) lightning may be more closely related to non-supercell tornado formation then to more general tornado development, and it is this hypothesis that is examined in this study. Using data from the Colorado LMA and two fortuitously placed non-supercell tornadoes (one near the Cheyenne NWS Doppler radar and the other over the Denver International Airport in close proximity to both the Denver NWS and Denver Terminal Doppler radars) that occurred during the summer of 2013, we will compare the behavior of total lighting in time to the development of the circulations leading up to the tornadoes. Warning lead time for non-supercell tornadoes remains an issue, since the incipient circulation is found at low-levels and can be difficult to detect unless the radar is close to the developing storm. If there is some value to be gained through monitoring total lightning, this could potentially assist the forecaster in issuing a warning for non-supercell tornadoes. These two cases allow for direct comparison of the behavior of the circulation leading up to the tornado, since they were close to the radar, with the tendencies of total lightning, as both cases were within the CO LMA. Total lightning will be available as one of the satellite-derived products in the GOES-R era (the first satellite scheduled for launch in late 2015), so establishing a potential relationship between total lightning and non-supercell tornado development would be of interest to forecasters nationwide.