The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office in Birmingham, Alabama, is in a unique position being located in close proximity to a total lightning detection network. The Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) in and around Huntsville, Alabama, detects and records lightning activity across northern and central Alabama. The ten receivers in the network detect radio signals emitted by the lightning which can be used to produce a three-dimensional lightning image. The total lightning data is sent through the NWS Local Data Acquisition and Dissemination System to the Birmingham forecast office. Forecasters can then access these data through the Advanced Weather Information Processing System. This information can be used individually or in combination with NLDN cloud-to-ground lightning data and real-time radar images.
Initial total lightning research suggests a relationship between intracloud lightning activity and storm strength. We will compare total lightning data to local radar data from storms within the NWS Birmingham County Warning Area. The relationships that are noted between these two data sources will aid local forecasters in their understanding of thunderstorm evolution, thereby assisting with the warning decision-making process.