Using GIS to investigate relationships between lightning and storm structure

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Monday, 18 January 2010
Sarah M. Glenn, Center for Spatial Analysis, Norman, OK

The study applied 3D GIS tools to visualize lightning data collected by the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array (OKLMA) network of 10 VHF receiving stations in central Oklahoma. The OKLMA network captures 3D coordinates of small-scale electromagnetic charges in seconds to examine lightning discharges within a radius of 75 km. Using the temporal data for each charge point, the study created animations to expose more detail of the lightning flashes by slowing down the time of each event, while keeping time proportions between points constant.

Moreover, the study overlapped the OKLMA data with NEXRAD WSR-88D Level II products to contextualize the lightning flashes within a thunderstorm occurring near Norman, Okla., around 01:00 UTC on 10 July 2007. Like OKLMA data, NEXRAD volume scans were displayed in various elevation angles. By overlapping the NEXRAD products and the lightning flashes, the study explored possible relationships between storm structure and lightning development.

Besides NEXRAD WSR-88D, this storm was captured on high-definition video, and several cloud-to-ground lightning flashes (CG) are visible. One CG flash in particular came completely outside the updraft, providing an opportunity for a visual observation. This CG flash was also recorded in video and still imagery. Follow-up research will compare the OKLMA lightning charges with flashes captured by the high-speed camera images to draw insights into the development of lightning strikes. This research may also help to better understand what characteristics or precursors a thunderstorm may exhibit to aid in the lightning warning process.