Monday, 11 January 2016
Increases in total lightning activity indicate an increase in updraft strength, and may, therefore, indicate that severe weather is about to occur. Earth Networks Incorporated (ENI) developed the Earth Networks Total Lightning Detection (ENTLN) to detect total lightning (in-cloud and cloud-to-ground flashes). In addition, ENI also has created decision-assistance products such as lightning cell tracking and Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts to highlight areas where severe weather conditions may occur. A controlled experiment of 18 National Weather Service forecasters was run in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed during 2014 to better understand the influence of this data and products on forecasters. For each simulation, the forecasters were separated into three different groups and provided access with different levels of data: 1) radar data only; 2) radar data plus total lightning data; or 3) radar data, total lightning and ENI guidance products (lightning cell, motion history and projection and DTAs). Forecasters worked through six different cases with varying severe weather conditions. Two out of the six cases were reviewed in detail here: Fort Worth-Dallas, TX (FWD) and Birmingham, AL (BMX). Results from each of these cases suggest lightning data and ENI decision-assistance products could have either a positive or negative effect on forecasters' warning decisions and confidence. For FWD, there was a clear and evident increase in confidence in their warnings with the use of lighting data; most of these warnings were verified. However, during the BMX case, forecasters may have issued more warnings due to the availability of lightning data and the ENI decision-assistance products. For this event, the forecasters received no severe reports while working in a marginal severe weather environment. Forecaster confidence fluctuated throughout the case and no warnings were verified.
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