2.1 Implementing Total Lightning Observations at Center Weather Service Unit Houston

Monday, 23 January 2017: 1:30 PM
Conference Center: Tahoma 1 (Washington State Convention Center )
Roland Nunez, NWS / Center Weather Service Unit, Houston, TX; and G. T. Stano
Manuscript (1.2 MB)

The Center Weather Service Units (CWSUs) are a branch of the National Weather Service with a mission to provide meteorological support to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  This is done to safely and efficiently use the National Airspace System.  The primary role of the CWSUs is to provide short to medium range forecasts of weather conditions that will impact aviation interests.  The CWSUs provide more localized knowledge to the FAA in collaboration with the Aviation Weather Center’s national products.

A key concern for the CWSUs is convection.  Unlike a Weather Forecast Office conducting decisions support for severe thunderstorms, the CWSUs are concerned with any convective activity (i.e., radar reflectivity values of >= 35 dBZ) occurring within their airspace.  Convection can impact route management as well as generate turbulence.  Diversions around storms or  to refuel are costly to the airlines and ways to safely mitigate these hazards are a priority.  In addition to these impacts, the CWSUs are focused on the timing, coverage, and intensity of convection that may impact the approach and departure gates located 50 miles from the primary airport.  For CWSU Houston, this is Bush Intercontinental Airport.  Aircraft must follow strict air routes to and from these gates to ensure a clear flight path.  Convection in and around these gate regions can force restrictions or closures that can disrupt ground operations resulting in flight delays.

NASA’s Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT) and CWSU Houston have been investigating ways to implement total lightning observations from the Houston Lightning Mapping Array into CWSU operations.  Initial work suggests the lightning data can provide insight as to the intensity of the convection, particularly with respect to how long a given cell may persist.  Furthermore, these observations may provide additional lead time on the development of convection, supporting the CWSU forecasters’ briefings to the Traffic Management Unit.  This presentation will discuss the initial work and results as well as describe how these efforts are supporting preparations for the GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper.

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