Lightningposition in storm may circle strongest updrafts
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may circle strongest updrafts
"This can be a monitor of severe storm intensity, another tool to monitor when storms might produce tornadoes or hail," said James Dye, a researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. Dye spoke this week at the International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity.
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Dye's findings come from the Stratospheric-Tropospheric Experiment: Radiation, Aerosols and Ozone (STERAO) Deep Convection experiment in northeast Colorado in June and July 1996. He used data from a French radio interferometer that collected five hours of uninterrupted observations of the locations of lightning within two major electrical storms, and from Doppler radar that shows wind direction and speed within a storm. Combining the two data sets showed where lightning was relative to updrafts and downdrafts.
Left, Above: The main reflector for a Doppler radar, one of the principal tools for peering inside severe storms. (NSSL/NOAA)
"It seems that lightning channels themselves are not in the most intense updrafts," Dye explained, "but in the weaker updrafts and downdrafts." This would seem to go against expectation. But while the lightning avoided the updraft cores, it became more frequent around the cores as the storm grew stronger.
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Dye says no one knows sure why, but the answer probably lies in the microphysics of ice and hail formation, the separation of charges as these bodies grow and move past each other, and how they are transported inside the storms by vertical and horizontal winds.
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Lightning research at NASA/Marshall and the Global Hydrology and Climate Center.
An exciting addition to this new suite of research tools would be a satellite-borne Lightning Mapping Sensor, under study at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center, that would observe the Earth continually from geostationary orbit.
"This would provide much more information in terms of intracloud strikes," he said. "It could be an additional forecasting and nowcasting tool" for meteorologists watching severe storms.
Dye cautioned that his and other results are not conclusive yet, but "they're highly suggestive and promising, but we have more work to do."
45th Weather Squadron at Patrick AFB, lightning reference page.
National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, OK
Numerical Modeling at NSSL
The New Mexico Tech 3D Lightning Mapping System
Lightning Detection and Ranging project at Kennedy Space Center.
National Severe Storms Laboratory Photo Library, where we got a lot of the neat pictures in these stories.
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NASA's Earth Science Enterprise Information on Earth Science missions, etc.
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|Author: Dave Dooling
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NASA Official: John M. Horack