18th Conference on Weather and Forecasting, 14th Conference on Numerical Weather Prediction, and Ninth Conference on Mesoscale Processes

Wednesday, 1 August 2001
Lightning Watch and Warning Support to Spacelift Operations
Johnny W. Weems, Air Force Weather Agency, Patrick AFB, FL; and C. S. Pinder, W. P. Roeder, and B. F. Boyd
Poster PDF (133.8 kB)
The Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS)/Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Complex, located on the east central coast of Florida, is the primary site for America’s spacelift operations. This location is near the most active lightning region in the United States and so requires unique instrumentation and meteorological support. The USAF’s 45th Weather Squadron provides this meteorological support. Lightning within 5 NM watch and warnings are implemented for 10 distinct operationally significant locations on KSC and CCAFS, with another 3 watch/warning areas at nearby locations. The cloud-to-ground lightning data are examined in detail for one of these areas, Launch Complex 40/41, for an eight-year period. This examination reveals some interesting insights related to equipment upgrades, implementation of new technologies, and changes in forecast philosophy. Even small changes in detection capability can have a large impact on meteorological support, both positively and negatively. Comparison of cloud to ground strike events with actual watch/warnings shows the need for advanced detection equipment and implementation of new forecast techniques which could distinguish between the potential for lightning and the actual occurrence of cloud-to-ground strikes, particularly in the dissipation stage of thunderstorms.

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