319 The Utility of Total Lightning for Diagnosing the Severity of Summer Pulse Convection

Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
Christopher B. Darden, NOAA/NWS, Huntsville, AL; and B. Carcione, A. M. Woodward, and G. T. Stano

Handout (2.3 MB)

The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Huntsville began utilizing total lightning information from the North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array (NALMA) in May 2003. Since the data became available in real-time, forecasters at WFO Huntsville have integrated the information with other traditional real-time remote sensing tools (i.e., radar and satellite) to improve situational awareness during various convective events.

To date, several case studies have been conducted correlating the time rate of change of total lightning with the occurrence of tornadoes. However, research correlating flash rates to summertime storms in a weakly forced environment has been fairly limited and mainly anecdotal. The intensity of these types of thunderstorms often fluctuates over very short time scales, creating significant challenges for severe local storm detection, yet the small but intense swaths of damage can be comparable to that produced by tornadoes.

To help address these detection challenges, WFO Huntsville conducted a special emphasis project during the summer of 2010. The primary goal of the project was to determine the feasibility of utilizing total lightning information and total lightning trends as a potential warning decision tool, similar to previous studies performed with tornadic thunderstorms. This paper will discuss the methodologies utilized in this study along with some preliminary findings by the study group.

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