Second Conference on Meteorological Applications of Lightning Data


Thunderstorm Visualization in 3-D

Gary R. Huffines, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO

The total characteristics of thunderstorms are difficult to visualize due to the three-dimensional nature of the storm structure. Radar data provide certain aspects of the storm which can be interpreted in three dimensions, how the three-dimensional nature of the storm is only available through horizontal and vertical cross sections and the ability to visualize the entire storm at once is not possible. Satellite imagery provides a top-down view of the storm but this is once again a two dimensional view that the user must interpret in three dimensions using temperature as one of the coordinates that represents height. The advent of three dimensional lightning measurements from systems such as the lightning display and ranging (LDAR) systems generate additional challenges for the observer in order to piece together a three dimensional image of the lightning structure within and without the thunderstorm. Attempts are currently made to provide a three dimensional image of storm structure using a two dimensional plane which contains a top down view, a image to the north, and a view to the east in order to provide a flattened, boxlike representation of a three dimensional structure.

A true three dimensional view of the thunderstorm is attempted using radar data, satellite imagery, and lightning data to provide the user with a view of the storm that can be repositioned and rotated in three dimensions to provide a better understanding of the overall structure. Cloud-to-ground locations are also included to allow the user the ability of locating CG flashes near their operating location. Total lightning data are visualized to include individual branches of the flash along with the source location inside the cloud and, where applicable, the ground strike location in connection with the intracloud flash.

Although this is an early attempt at three-dimensional storm visualization, additional information can be added to the system including ground-based electric field measurements, surface features such as buildings, towers and topography, and local wind information. This visualization technique is only applicable for case studies at present, but the potential exists to apply this method of storm interrogation to near real-time data. As this project continues and improvements are made, fly-through capability and layering options will be made available to give forecasters the ability to visualize storms in remote areas of their region of responsibility with similar clarity as they may have in their back yard.


Session 6, Advances in lightning technology and transfer of that technology from research to operations
Tuesday, 31 January 2006, 3:30 PM-5:30 PM, A307

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