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Investigating the Use of Polarimetric Radar Data as Forecast Guidance for Lightning Cessation at Kennedy Space Center

A Research Project for NASA Kennedy Space Center
Additional Support by a Florida Space Grant Fellowship

The United States Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron (45WS) is responsible for providing weather support to America's space program at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Kennedy Space Center (KSC), and Patrick AFB (PAFB). Forecasters at the 45WS issue lightning advisories for thirteen areas when lightning poses a threat, and discontinue the advisories when the threat has passed. Our proposed research will use dual-polarimetric radar and total lightning (IC and CG) data to address the 45WS's top technical challenge: the need to improve lightning cessation forecasting. The 45WS often leaves advisories in effect longer than necessary, lest an advisory is ended too early and safety is compromised. A better understanding of lightning cessation also will benefit a variety of other applications, such as the aviation (e.g., PAFB) and outdoor sporting industries. Dual-polarization radar has the potential to improve the forecasting of lightning cessation, but techniques need to be developed in order to capitalize on that potential. After-the-fact analysis shows that 45WS ends lightning warnings later than is optimum, primarily because reliable and accurate techniques are not available. Our goal is to design statistically and empirically derived lightning cessation techniques using the 45WS's new dual polarization radar, in particular the 5.3 cm wavelength, and the improved 4DLSS. We believe that dual-polarimetric radar will provide new insights into many of these topics, and we pose the following questions. We seek answers to the following questions:

  1. Are the radar reflectivity and isotherm height relationships used by previous researchers accurate in describing the microphysics and updraft evolution associated with thunderstorm charging?
  2. Why do isolated single cell and multi-cell storms exhibit different behaviors at cessation?
  3. What explains the fact that cessation occurs in several different ways ?
  4. Can we improve the combined ER and PM scheme proposed by Stano et al. (JGR, 2010) and implement it operationally, and how does it perform compared to other baseline techniques?
  5. Do operational WDSS-II procedures outperform various baseline cessation techniques?
  6. What explains the earlier lack of conclusive findings using WDSS-II derived storms?
  7. Which physical processes explain the outliers observed by ST10 and others?
  8. Does a combined analysis of isolated cells and thick anvil or debris clouds perform best?

Graduate Student on this Project

Ari Preston

Principal Investigator

Henry Fuelberg

last updated February 24, 2014