690 Exploring the use of radar for physically-based nowcasting of lightning cessation

Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Washington State Convention Center
Elise V. Schultz, Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL; and W. A. Petersen and L. D. Carey
Manuscript (5.0 MB)

Handout (747.1 kB)

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) are collaborating with the 45th Weather Squadron (45WS) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) to enable improved nowcasting of lightning cessation. This project centers on use of dual-polarimetric radar capabilities, and in particular, the new C-band dual-polarimetric weather radar acquired by the 45WS. Special emphasis is placed on the development of a physically-based operational algorithm to predict lightning cessation.

While previous studies have developed statistically based lightning cessation algorithms driven primarily by trending in the actual total lightning flash rate, we believe that dual-polarimetric radar variables offer the possibility to improve existing algorithms through the inclusion of physically meaningful trends reflecting interactions between in-cloud electric fields and ice-microphysics. Specifically, decades of polarimetric radar research using propagation differential phase has demonstrated the presence of distinct phase and ice crystal alignment signatures in the presence of strong electric fields associated with lightning. One question yet to be addressed is: To what extent can propagation phase-based ice-crystal alignment signatures be used to nowcast the cessation of lightning activity in a given storm? Accordingly, data from the UAHuntsville Advanced Radar for Meteorological and Operational Research (ARMOR) along with the NASA-MSFC North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array are used in this study to investigate the radar signatures present before and after lightning cessation.

Thus far our case study results suggest that the negative differential phase shift signature weakens and disappears after the analyzed storms ceased lightning production (i.e., after the last lightning flash occurred). This is a key observation because it suggests that while strong electric fields may still have been present, the lightning cessation signature was encompassed in the period of the polarimetric negative phase shift signature.

To the extent this behavior is repeatable in other cases, even if only in a substantial fraction of those cases, the analysis suggests that differential propagation phase may prove to be a useful parameter for future lightning cessation algorithms. Indeed, a preliminary analysis of 15+ cases has shown additional indications of the weakening and disappearance of this ice alignment signature with lightning cessation. A summary of these case-study results is presented.

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