Study cautions use of lightning trends alone to diagnose severe weather potential

Researchers from NSSL and CIMMS have published the first study to combine rapidly-updating phased array radar data with high-resolution lightning data to study lightning behavior in a hail storm. Frequent scans from phased array radar revealed relationships between lightning and storm growth not able to be seen with current radar update rates.  Though total lightning flash rates are expected to increase as storm updrafts intensify, in this case a decrease in total lightning flash rate was observed during the simultaneous development of an updraft surge. This finding cautions forecasters in the use of lightning mapping observations alone to diagnose an increase or decrease in updraft intensity and the potential for severe weather.

The study, funded by the National Science Foundation, was published in the June 2011 Monthly Weather Review, an American Meteorological Society journal.

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