Numerous studies have been conducted on the nowcasting of convective initiation through the use of geostationary satellite data (Walker et al. 2012, Mecikalski et al. 2015). Taking a step further, other studies have a shown that including data from the 3.9 µm channel available on the GOES instruments allows for the prediction of the onset of lightning (LI) over the next 0-1 hour (Harris et al. 2010; Iskendarian et al. 2012). Following these studies, a lightning initiation algorithm has been developed using GOES satellite interest fields to focus forecasters on areas where future lightning flashes are expected. Using a storm motion derived from the profile of RAP model winds to determine direction, a polygon is created for a cloud object if it exceeds a certain threshold of LI indicators. The algorithm ingests Multi-Radar/Multi-Sensor (MRMS) reflectivity at the -10°C isotherm to highlight polygons that have radar reflectivities ≥ 40 dBZ. The overall product also makes use of the Lightning Forecast Algorithm available within the operational High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) model. Using a blend of model forecasts of lightning amounts and flash densities, polygons from the GOES LI algorithm can be overlaid these forecasts to give forecasters an idea of approximately how much lightning is expected if the storms develop.
The lightning alert tool has been developed in concert with National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters to meet their needs for real-time, accurate first-flash LI and timing, as well as anticipated lightning trends and amounts, so to provide key situational awareness and decision support information. The NASA Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center has provided important logistical and collaborative support and training, involving interactions with the NWS and broader user community.