Lightning Potential Index as a Real-time Decision Support Service over Public Lands

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Paul Frisbie, NOAA/NWSFO, Grand Junction, CO; and J. Colton, J. Malingowski, and M. Michael

Lightning is one of the deadliest hazards in the state of Colorado as illustrated in July 2014 when two lightning-induced fatalities were reported over consecutive days. In addition to the fatalities, ten people were injured as they recreated at Rocky Mountain National Park, home to Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved highway in the United States. Hikers in the high country above timberline become susceptible to lightning dangers due to lack of shelter. The NWS Grand Junction, Colorado office has devised a methodology, called the Lightning Potential Index (LPI), which pinpoints the likelihood of lightning strikes out to sixty hours in advance. The methodology was derived from several years of observations throughout the contiguous United States, and therefore is applicable for many geographical regimes. Efforts to integrate this new science with all public land agencies will improve decision support services and enable highly recreated areas to post alerts for high or extreme lightning days. The NWS Grand Junction office will continue to expand efforts to share this critical information to help save lives and property via webinars, face-to-face communications, and meetings with pertinent land agencies. Immediate verification will focus over the Colorado Rockies to check the viability of the LPI. The information provided here may be a valuable asset to researchers who look to refine lightning forecasting for higher-resolution models.