The NASA SPoRT program has been providing total lightning data to several National Weather Service (NWS) partners since May 2003. This transition, along with training, has helped forecasters in the warning decision making process to enhancing situational awareness. This is made possible by incorporating these unique data in the National Weather Service’s native display environment, AWIPS. This acronym stands for the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System. The NWS is planning to begin switching to the newer AWIPS II system late this year or early 2010. SPoRT is working hard to maintain our existing capabilities and to investigate new display abilities within this new environment.
Unlike AWIPS, the new AWIPS II system is more like Google Earth in that a forecaster can pan around the map and zoom in on areas of interest. The original AWIPS has very rigid viewing levels and does not allow this kind of freedom. This feature of AWIPS II will allow forecasters to quickly switch between a large overview image to a zoomed image focusing on a specific storm. SPoRT has created a small demonstration loop showing what total lightning data may look like should the data be made available from six of the existing total lightning networks. This type of display could be used by the Storm Prediction Center allowing their forecasters to easily interrogate storms across the south where total lightning data are available. Plans are being made to make these data available for the 2010 Spring Program hosted in Norman, Oklahoma.