Evolution of LightningCast Over Southern Montana/DSS Event In Billings

Upper level flow shows continued SSW flow aloft over the region, thanks to deep troughing remaining over the West Coast. Overall forcing through the afternoon is on the weaker side of things, but models show an upper level jet streak nosing into the area. Scattered thunderstorm activity has already developed (below) to the south of Billings in northern WY, and is expected to expand in coverage through the afternoon. The DSS event is noted by the large yellow “B” over Billings.

The 14Z PHS forecast output (below) showed 19Z MUCAPE values across the area ranging roughly from 1000-2500 j/kg (with highest values in the eastern areas). Looking further into the mid-afternoon hours, outside of MUCAPE values creeping closer to 3000 j/kg in far NE portions of the CWA, the PHS overall didn’t show any notable changes in values. PHS values of 0-6km shear also matched up fairly well with SPC Mesoanalysis at 19Z, and had values increasing to around 35-40 kts through the afternoon.

Below is the 19Z MUCAPE via the SPC Mesoanalysis page.

LightningCast right around 19Z showed the 10% probability contour still about 40 miles SSW of Billings at its closest point (below).

LightningCast right around 20Z showed the 10% probability contour still about 30-35 miles W-SW of Billings at its closest point (below).

Around 2045Z, the 10% prob. contour reached the DSS event(below), but overall activity continues to be slow to push NNE. The LightningCast Time Series is included to show the trend up to this point.

Fast forward to roughly an hour later (~2140Z), there’s been a bit of a jump in the LightningCast Probability/TimeSeries (below), with the DSS event now sitting with a roughly 35% probability of lightning in the next hour.

A few minutes later, another jump up in probability – up to around 50%. Below is an image that has the GLM FED (colored pixels) included with the radar, LightningCast, and ENI Total Lighting Plot.

You likely have already been talking with the DSS contact point, but this jump up in the last ~10 mins may warrant another update, conveying that there is an increasing probability of lightning occurring in the next 60 mins.

Not surprisingly, the LightningCast probabilities have continued to increase, also shown in the time series. Image is from 2220Z.

What’s the best way to pass along this information to the DSS contact point?

With this type of event, where it’s slow to move in (driven more by the upper forcing vs the somewhat random quicker-developing activity that can occur in high CAPE/low shear  and other types of environments) and no significant changes in the overall environment across the area, perhaps you could wait until it’s closer to 50% or more  before expressing greater concern for the threat of lightning.  In those instances where activity may be quicker to develop/strengthen, it’s not out of the question that values closer to the 25% contour would warrant greater concern. No matter the overall environment, I do believe the addition of a shorter-term probability (lightning within 30 mins)  would be beneficial.

– Bubbles


Using GLM to track thunderstorm life cycles

GLM FED/MFA RGB here shows the rapid thunderstorm life cycles in the weakly sheared but highly unstable Florida atmosphere, as reds to yellows (intensifying convection with lots of short cloud flashes) give way to blues and purples (weakening convection with fewer but longer flashes). The range rings circle today’s DSS event, which also highlights the difficult nature of producing storm by storm headlines or products for public safety as the life span of these thunderstorms are brief. The messaging for today highlights the consistently sporadic lightning threat for anyone on the coast or at the DSS site while storms build and collapse over a matter of minutes.


Using GLM to decide to issue an SPS

GLM RGB showed the progression of a developing storm near the TBW DSS site this afternoon. Not only was lightning a threat communicated to the DSS site, but KTBW radar depicted a downburst signature as shown below, which prompted us to issue an SPS for wind to around 40 mph, frequent lightning, and heavy rain.  track a developing storm near the Florida State Fair


LightningCast Gives Advance Notice for DSS Event

Lightning Cast (parallax corrected) had a 75% contour for lightning within the next hour (screenshot taken at 21:51Z) for our railroad DSS event. Notified the DSS event about the high lightning potential within the next hour. Went back to look at radar and lightning data for 22:50 to 22:54Z and there were CG and CC strikes just north of the Railroad DSS event in Levelland, TX. This allowed us to give them an hour to make any ground preparations regarding personnel.

-Dwight Schrute

Challenge With A DSS Event With Scattered Thunderstorm Development…focus on LightningCast.

Sea Breeze and outflow boundaries in place over the Florida Peninsula made for a tricky forecast during the afternoon hours, as thunderstorms could and would quickly develop just about anywhere along that boundary. Lightning up to this point by far was the main threat from these storms…as most storms were not strong long enough to cause notable hail to be a concern, but with storms having the potential to “die off” quickly as well, wind was more of a concern.

With the initial onset of early afternoon activity, providing DSS support and giving the local contact more detailed information was on the ‘easier’ side. LightningCast around 19Z was showing increasing probability contours of lightning within 60 mins at the DSS site (image below was at 1901Z. The DSS event is noted by the yellow “C”.

By around 2035Z, activity had increased in coverage and drifted northeast, closer to the DSS event, shown below by the increased coverage of ENTLN lightning plots and the 75% probability contour in the area.

The challenge since then is that more scattered/widespread activity has developed (and died off), in what seems at times to be in fairly random areas…but are for the most part tied to the moving outflow boundaries from previous storms (seen in radar image below at 2203Z).

Not surprisingly, as a result of all of this activity, LightningCast over this entire area has been remaining mostly around-above 50%, with many spots at/above 75%.

The challenge is what is the best way to convey this information to the DSS point of contact? Below is an image showing the LightningCast probability contours at 2212Z, along with the LightningCast Time Series for the DSS site (noted with the yellow “C”).

There is an overall lull roughly between 2110Z-2150Z (probability is closer to/lower to 50%)…but it never drops below 20%.  

Personally, looking at this time series and given the environment/set up and evolution of storms so far, I would have a difficult time calling the DSS point of contact and saying the threat of lightning is low…as another storm could develop as soon as I hang up. You don’t want to totally shut an event down, or be constantly calling the point of contact with updates (unless you know the contact likes that much communication). I don’t claim to have the answers, just thinking out loud, but it’s something to think about if using this product to communicate with DDS contacts.


Observations from BUF on Thursday June 16th

Optical Flow Wind Storm Top Divergence Can Aid in Warning Operations

The storm of the day produced a 2.5” hail stone near Cato, NY.
Strong storm top divergence signals an intense or intensifying thunderstorm. Matched with upper level radar scans, satellite interrogation (clean IR), and ProbSevere, optical flow wind products may be another tool to aid the warning forecaster and/or storm scale mesoanalysis,  Below are the corresponding optical flow wind storm top divergence images approaching 4 PM EDT (3 PM CDT) when the sig severe hail was reported. The thunderstorm of interest is centered just south of eastern Lake Ontario.

LightningCast as Graphical Messaging/IDSS Tool

As the DSS and graphics person for BUF, I took the opportunity to highlight the utility of LightningCast for Graphical NowCasts and DSS graphics. The fairly broad brushed nature of the lightning probability contours at the timesteps utilized for graphics I think is a positive for a few reasons: they show actionable probabilities (10+, 25+, 50+, 75+) that users can understand; the contours are akin to annotations on a radar graphic, so would be a time saver; and finally, broad brushed is a way to prompt users and partners to seek out more information, like real time zoomed in radar data, perhaps calling or sending us a chat on NWSChat, or even simply keeping an eye on the sky and listening for thunder. The parallax corrected product in the images below I feel would be more useful for graphics of the nature shown below. Ultimately, for operational use, there would probably need to be some work done to ensure they are not confusing to the user and aesthetically pleasing.
Graphical NowCasts for our websites and social media
Graphic for IDSS Event

A Case for the Sharpened GLM FED Color Scale Used this Week

Over the course of satellite product interrogation this week, the GLM FED stood out as one of the most useful products.  Below are examples from in/near the BUF CWA at 2043z and 2047z. Note that the top of the color scale was set to 128 flashes/5 min over the grid point vs. the default 256 flashes/5 min in AWIPS. The FED also paired well with the MFA and TOE on this 4-pane procedure.
The color curve used this week really popped and correlated well with frequent ENTLN detections. Another example below from shortly after 6 PM EDT (2202 and 2207z)  shows that there will be instances where perhaps an even small color bar range would be useful.
While the strongest storm at this time still showed up well on the AWIPS default color bar range, the 128 flashes/5 min top end of the range (top right) helped it pop even more and corresponded well conceptually with the ENTLN cloud flash detections. Furthermore, the thunderstorms to the north of the strongest thunderstorm showed up better from an SA perspective, if you have been focusing on the strongest storm for warning ops. The smallest color bar range on the bottom left further enhances the above described effect.

Addendum: GLM Flashes and a more smoothed FED

The excellent COD NexLab Satellite and Radar page added within the past year the GLM flash centroids to their GOES derived overlays. From an apples to apples perspective with respect to the ground based lightning detection network displays, this may be a useful product to add into AWIPS.

Addendum 2: Would a more smoothed FED be preferable?

Below are a few web based examples of FED displays.
A case can be made that these smoothed FED examples would be somewhat less obtrusive than the default AWIPS FED display, especially for storm scale interrogation by the warning operator or storm scale mesoanalyst.
– Hurricane84

GLM Parallax and Lightning Cast Fun

The GLM data, specifically the FED data, was used to provide DSS to the Riverfest in La Crosse, WI.  After my first contact with the event POC, I noticed that the FED data was off by roughly a county from the ground-based lightning data.  This was my first time witnessing the parallax issue from the GLM and why ground-based lightning networks are a key component in confirming that the GLM location is accurate. In Figure 1, notice the intense concentration of the lightning just southwest of the event (20 mile and 5 mile radius rings) depicted by the GLM while the ENTLN/NLDN say that concentration is about a county south.   The parallax is evident in other lightning concentrations in and around the event circle.  I know it’s something being worked on to have the GLM data corrected to avoid this parallax issue, but it would be nice to have a map of the locations where the parallax is more evident in case you may not need the corrected version. Obviously, the further north, the larger the parallax, but not quite sure at what latitudes it really starts to show its hand. On a side note, for aviation purposes, the parallax could become problematic if the GLM lightning data is off by a factor of a county or two, especially if re-routing aircraft is occurring.

Figure 1: GLM Flash Extent Density compared with ENTLN data on June 15, 2022.

Figure 2: FED and ENTLN animation showing the GLM parallax.

I utilized the Lightning Cast to provide a probable end time of the lightning threat for the Riverfest event in La Crosse, WI.  This was a valuable tool as it provided some added confidence when the storms would exit the event area.  I did my best to line up the TOA tool with the 25 percentile contour. Once I got my estimated time that the end of the lightning threat would reach the event, then I added about 30 minutes to ensure it was well east of the event circle.


Can PHS Improve Mesoanalysis and Near Term Convective Forecasts?

A large portion of the MKX CWA was included in a MDT severe risk, so by the start of the operational period, we had to assess the evolving severe threat spreading in from the west. Meanwhile, our DSS event was the Madison Jazz Festival, which entailed a focus specifically on south central Wisconsin. The PHS CAPE forecast appeared to be a noteworthy improvement from the CAPE fields on the SPC Mesoanalysis, along with the short-term forecast on that page.

Below are the 18z through 20z plots of MUCAPE, MUCIN and effective bulk shear from the SPC Mesoanalysis page.

Compare the above images with 4000 J/kg of uncapped MUCAPE to the PHS MUCAPE initialization at 18z and 2-hour forecasts (19z and 20z) below.

As you can see, while the SPC mesoanalysis was indicating 4,000 J/kg of uncapped MUCAPE, the PHS forecast showed CAPE decreasing across central and south central Wisconsin. This was an important and helpful piece of information for our DSS content for the Madison Jazz Festival.

The Day Cloud Phase RGB images below back up the PHS forecast vs the SPC mesoanalysis, as relatively flat Cu field over our area of interest actually dissipated between 20z and 22z.

Based on the PHS forecast combined with satellite analysis, we were able to focus the convective threat for the Madison area toward 6PM and onward, tied to the stronger forcing and better moisture arriving from the west where the ongoing convection resided closer to the cold front. It appears that the PHS sampling of moisture in the column applied to the near-term forecast strongly outperformed the SPC/RAP Mesoanalysis model background and OA algorithm.

Differences between the LightningCast (LC) CONUS and LC Mesos

Note below the CONUS scale (1st image) and Mesos (Meso Sector 2 on 6/15) had a different depiction of the lightning probability over northeast Iowa at 1911z 22Jun15. This was due to the time for a CONUS GOES-East scan to complete, vs. the much shorter time for a Meso sector, which in turn affects the LightningCast model. This is something to keep in mind when using the product.

ProbSevereV3 Trends for Severe Convection in Western/Southwestern Wisconsin

At 2106z, the ARX office had recently issued a Tornado Warning (2102z) for the northern cell with a high % on PSV3 and PTV3, per the noted superior calibration of the updated model vs. the V2. Could the PSV3 and PTV3 trend on this storm have assisted the radar operator in an increased lead time? As you can see below, starting at 2045z, there was a sharp upward trend in the ProbTor, to near 40% prior to 21z. At the least, this tool appears to be an excellent situational awareness tool, and may even be able to help lead time in some cases. It helped us in the MKX CWA regarding downstream warning issuances. In the event of an unexpected radar outage in a sparse radar coverage area, environmental analysis plus satellite interrogation with the utility of PSv3 could support successful radar warning ops in a less than ideal scenario.

– Hurricane84