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forecasting lightning threat using cloud-resolving model simulationsAs numerical forecasts capable of resolving individual convective clouds become more common, it is of interest to see if quantitative forecasts of lightning flash rate density are possible, based on fields computed by the numerical model. Previous observational research has shown robust relationships between observed lightning flash rates and inferred updraft and large precipitation ice fields in the mixed phase regions of storms, and that these relationships might allow simulated fields to serve as proxies for lightning flash rate density. It is shown in this paper that two simple proxy fields do indeed provide reasonable and cost-effective bases for creating time-evolving maps of predicted lightning flash rate density, judging from a series of diverse simulation case study events in North Alabama for which Lightning Mapping Array data provide ground truth. One method is based on the product of upward velocity and the mixing ratio of precipitating ice hydrometeors, modeled as graupel only, in the mixed phase region of storms at the -15\dgc\ level, while the second method is based on the vertically integrated amounts of ice hydrometeors in each model grid column. Each method can be calibrated by comparing domainwide statistics of the peak values of simulated flash rate proxy fields against domainwide peak total lightning flash rate density data from observations. Tests show that the first method is able to capture much of the temporal variability of the lightning threat, while the second method does a better job of depicting the areal coverage of the threat. A blended solution is designed to retain most of the temporal sensitivity of the first method, while adding the improved spatial coverage of the second. Weather Research and Forecast Model simulations of selected North Alabama cases show that this model can distinguish the general character and intensity of most convective events, and that the proposed methods show promise as a means of generating quantitatively realistic fields of lightning threat. However, because models tend to have more difficulty in correctly predicting the instantaneous placement of storms, forecasts of the detailed location of the lightning threat based on single simulations can be in error. Although these model shortcomings presently limit the precision of lightning threat forecasts from individual runs of current generation models, the techniques proposed herein should continue to be applicable as newer and more accurate physically-based model versions, physical parameterizations, initialization techniques and ensembles of cloud-allowing forecasts become available.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
McCaul, E. W., Jr.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Goodman, S. J.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
LaCasse, K. M.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Cecil, D. J.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
August 24, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2009
Subject Category
Meteorology and Climatology
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits