4.2 The Houston Lightning Mapping Array: Installation, Operation, and Preliminary Results

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 1:45 PM
Room 14 (Austin Convention Center)
Matthew R. Cullen, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX; and D. R. Rodeheffer, P. R. Krehbiel, W. Rison, and R. E. Orville

The Houston Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) was established in April 2012 and is a network of twelve time-of-arrival lightning sensors operating in the VHF space and distributed around Houston, Texas. The network sensors are built by New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and designed as portable, stand-alone units. These LMA sensors utilize solar panels and cellular data modems for Internet connectivity, eliminating the dependence on wired power or communications lines, permitting the units to be placed in strategic locations at sites to minimize noise and interference.

Twelve sensors are distributed around the Houston metropolitan area in order to provide total lightning data for the fourth most populated American city. The primary research goals of the network are to investigate the structure of total lightning within thunderstorm development and to examine any potential impact of the urban environment on lightning characteristics. Furthermore, the proximity to the coast and the Gulf of Mexico presents the opportunity to examine the total lightning structure within tropical cyclones that impact the southeast Texas coastline. The availability of real-time LMA data additionally provides a decision support tool for advanced warning of thunderstorm development.

We detail efforts with the Houston/Galveston Weather Forecast Office and the Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Space Center to integrate the real-time LMA data into operational display software. The network has been operating continuously since installation in mid-April with ten sensors surrounding the Houston area, an eleventh sensor located in Galveston, and a twelfth sensor located in College Station. Analysis of recent data will investigate three-dimensional thunderstorm activity.

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