Situational Awareness with Total Lightning

Springtime is on its way and with it is the potential for thunderstorms across the Southeast.  This morning, we are watching a large number of storms move across the Birmingham, Alabama county warning area as shown in the radar image below (Figure 1).  The North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array (NALMA) can provide situational awareness for more than just severe weather applications.  Right now, the NALMA can help show what storms are electrically active and therefore represent a threat for cloud-to-ground lightning.  The strong radar signature just east of Tuscaloosa and on the west-central Alabama border make it no surprise that lightning is active in these storms, as seen by NALMA (Figure 2).  However, there are numerous additional cells across the region where the potential for lightning exists.  With the NALMA data we can, at a glance see which cells are becoming electrically active (circles-Figure 2).

Figure 1: Birmingham radar reflectivity from 1520 UTC on 10 March 2010.

Figure 2: Corresponding total lightning observations from NALMA at 1522 UTC. The circled regions indicate where storms shown on the radar image are becoming electrically active.

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