34th Conference on Radar Meteorology


Developing lightning prediction tools for the CCAFS dual-polarimetric radar

Walter A. Petersen, NASA/MSFC, Huntsville, AL ; and L. D. Carey, W. Deierling, E. V. Johnson, and M. Bateman

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of Alabama Huntsville are collaborating with the 45th Weather Squadron (45WS) to develop improved lightning prediction capabilities for the new C-band dual-polarimetric weather radar being acquired for use by 45WS and launch weather forecasters at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). In particular, these algorithms will focus on lightning onset, cessation and combined lightning-radar applications for convective winds assessment.

Research using radar reflectivity (Z) data for prediction of lightning onset has been extensively discussed in the literature and subsequently applied by launch weather forecasters as it pertains to lightning nowcasting. Currently the forecasters apply a relatively straight forward but effective temperature-Z threshold algorithm for assessing the likelihood of lightning onset in a given storm. In addition, a layered VIL above the freezing level product is used as automated guidance for the onset of lightning. Only limited research and field work has been conducted on lightning cessation using Z and vertically-integrated Z for determining cessation. Though not used operationally vertically-integrated Z (basis for VIL) has recently shown promise as a tool for use in nowcasting lightning cessation. The work discussed herein leverages and expands upon these and similar reflectivity-threshold approaches via the application/addition of over two decades of polarimetric radar research focused on distinct multi-parameter radar signatures of ice/mixed-phase initiation and ice-crystal orientation in highly electrified convective clouds. Specifically, our approach is based on numerous previous studies that have observed repeatable patterns in the behavior of the vertical hydrometeor column as it relates to the temporal evolution of differential reflectivity and depolarization (manifested in either LDR or hv), development of in-situ mixed and ice phase microphysics, electric fields, and ensuing lightning in the sub-tropical/tropical convection typical of the southeastern U.S., Maritime Continent, and southwestern Amazon. The polarimetric signatures detected in this setting provide a basis for automated 3-D detection of hydrometeor types in fuzzy logic hydrometeor identification algorithms (HID).

Our working hypothesis is that improvement in lightning onset warning lead time and specificity for a given storm, relative to application of a Z-threshold algorithm, should arise as a consequence of the ability of dual-polarimetric radar to unambiguously detect and identify (through HID algorithms) the updraft elevation of rain-water cores above the freezing level and subsequent onset of drop freezing, riming, and robust mixed phase processes leading to significant charge separation and lightning. This type of algorithm, though dependent on the quality of the polarimetric data should be less susceptible to variable Z-calibration that can impact a given Z-threshold approach. To facilitate development of the algorithm while the 45WS dual-pol radar is in its current test stages and to evaluate the impact of polarimetric data quality (e.g., modified scan parameters and sampling) on the ensuing algorithms, we are using the ARMOR C-band dual-pol radar in Huntsville combined with N. Alabama LMA data and ARMOR HID algorithms [NCAR algorithm modified for application at C-band] in a testbed fashion.

For lightning cessation we are revisiting the application of differential propagation phase variables for the monitoring of ice crystal alignment driven by in-cloud electric fields combined with metrics of ice water path (i.e., vertically integrated reflectivity). Importantly it should be noted that this approach is still very much a "research" topic and as such, we will explore operational applications that involve radar frequencies other than C-Band by using the UAH MAX X-band dual-pol radar in slow "staring" modes.

The presentation will provide examples of the algorithm basis and provide an update on its application/development with the 45WS dual-polarimetric radar.

Poster Session 12, Test beds / Nowcasting
Thursday, 8 October 2009, 1:30 PM-3:30 PM, President's Ballroom

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