92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Sunday, 22 January 2012
Forecasting Summertime Cloud-to-Ground Lightning Over Houston, Texas
Hall E (New Orleans Convention Center )
Matthew R. Cullen, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and R. E. Orville, K. Collier, A. Demko, and L. Wood

During the summer months across the southern United States, lightning poses a substantial threat to life and safety. The threat of lightning is particularly of concern when individuals are engaged in outdoor activities. Currently, the National Weather Service (NWS) does not issue lightning outlooks, advisories, or warnings. The issuance of such lightning specific products would be an important step in raising the public's awareness concerning the threat of lightning, which could potentially save lives. Therefore, during a five week experimental period, the viability and feasibility of issuing lightning outlook, advisory, and warning products was evaluated at the NWS Houston/Galveston Weather Forecast Office (WFO).

During the experiment period, a two phased approach was developed to aid in public awareness of the lightning potential. Each morning, a graphical lightning outlook for the day was generated. The lightning threat was assessed as none, low, medium, or high, and shaded with the appropriate color. Additionally, an advisory/warning program was developed, resulting in the issuance of Point Lightning Advisories, and Point Lightning Warnings for cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning strikes within five nautical miles of eight airport terminals located across the WFO Houston/Galveston County Warning Area (CWA). As storms developed across the CWA, reflectivity data and derived products from the WSR-88D radar were evaluated. Of particular interest in this study was the effectiveness of using Vertically Integrated Ice (VII) as a decision support tool in the advisory/warning process. Additionally, data from the Houston Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR II) network were utilized to provide additional guidance when issuing advisories or warnings.

After each day in which an advisory or warning was issued, any CG lightning strikes that occurred within or nearby a warning site were recorded for verification purposes. Full verification of issued products was performed, including the calculation of Probability of Detection (POD), False Alarm Rate (FAR), and Critical Success Index (CSI). Initial results demonstrate that the graphical outlook, advisory, and warning products demonstrated success. While airport terminals were selected as forecast points in this study, the methodology could easily be applied to other locations including outdoor festivals, concerts, and sporting events. Thus, the experimental lightning products could certainly serve to increase public awareness concerning the lightning threat.

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