Forecast models ready for GOES-R lightning data

Screen shot example image of complementary coverage of radar (yellow) and lightning (green to proxy reflectivity)

Example of complementary coverage of radar (yellow) and lightning (green to proxy reflectivity)

November 17, 2016

With the launch of GOES-R and the first operational Global Lightning Mapper (GLM) on Saturday, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) models are set to ingest GLM’s new, high-frequency lightning data.

Starting in 2004, ESRL Global Systems Division (GSD) researchers developed a method to incorporate lightning data into model analysis systems by converting it into proxy radar reflectivity data. The technique combines cloud and precipitation-related observations from surface sensors, satellite, and radar, and National Lightning Data Network (NLDN) lightning data to modify cloud, precipitation and upward-motion (via wind) fields, and improve short-range storm and cloud forecasts.

Through archived and real-time case studies, GSD researchers showed this proxy radar reflectivity technique with lightning data added to radar data and improved the forecast accuracy of local high-impact weather, especially thunderstorms.

NCEP has been assimilating lightning data from the National Lightning Data Network (NLDN) into its hourly forecast systems since August 23, 2016 using GSD’s method. The same technique will be used to convert GOES-R GLM data into radar reflectivity data when it becomes available.

The GOES-R GLM lightning data with GSD’s lightning assimilation will support better decision-making before and during high-impact weather, especially outside continental regions with radar coverage. It also will improve forecasts of thunderstorms over the ocean to support transoceanic aviation.

The GLM is the first operational lightning mapper to be flown in space. The GOES-R launch is scheduled for 5:42PM on November 19, 2016.

For more information contact: Susan Cobb 303-497-5093