Experimental lightning advisories/warnings for point locations in East Central Florida

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010: 4:15 PM
B218 (GWCC)
Brad James Reinhart, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and M. Volkmer, S. Spratt, and D. Sharp

Presentation PDF (1.5 MB)

Lightning kills more people annually in Florida than any other weather phenomenon. Therefore, advancing high-resolution, short-fused lightning information for the protection of human lives is of great importance to the National Weather Service (NWS). During a two month experiment during June and July 2009, the NWS Melbourne, FL Weather Forecast Office (WFO) conducted an experiment to test the capability and skill of issuing lightning advisories and warnings for pre-determined point locations in East Central Florida.

During the experiment, a forecaster continually monitored WSR-88D radar base data and derived products upon an Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) workstation during the peak convective hours of 1200 to 1600 LST. Complementary analysis tools, including the System for Convection Analysis and Nowcasting (SCAN) and the Four-Dimensional Stormcell Investigator (FSI), further helped ascertain convective trends conducive to electrification near the Melbourne (KMLB) and Orlando (KMCO) International Airports. In conjunction with the detailed radar-based analyses, the Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR) network surrounding the Kennedy Space Center was instrumental in tracking the initiation and evolution of total lightning signals aloft within cells of interest.

When forecaster confidence of (cloud to ground; CG) lightning onset in close proximity to KMLB and KMCO became high, experimental lightning advisories and/or warnings were composed and locally archived (not released externally). The lightning products were produced with a desired 30-minute (10-minute) advisory (warning) lead time for a five mile radius of each airport, to account for the sporadic nature of sequential CG strikes and to increase the public safety factor. For verification purposes, all CG lightning strikes were plotted and evaluated to determine whether any strikes occurred within the advisory/warning radii, and if so, at what time. This data was then used to calculate Probability Of Detection (POD), False Alarm Ratio (FAR), Critical Success Index (CSI) and average lead time statistics for the lightning advisory and warning products. The verification results showed that lightning advisories and warnings were issued for point locations (surrounded by a five mile radii safety margin) with a considerable degree of success and favorable lead times. Demonstrating skill for advanced warnings of CG lightning strikes for specific locations has important implications. Ultimately, the results could lead to the incorporation of lightning advisories and warnings into WFO operations to provide incident support for emergency officials and to help protect high-density gatherings of people at outdoor events.