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Nowcasting Convective Storm Initiation Using Satellite-Based Box-Averaged Cloud-Top Cooling and Cloud-Type Trends

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  • 1 Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison Wisconsin
  • | 2 Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Hampton, Virginia
  • | 3 Advanced Satellite Products Team, NOAA/NESDIS/Center for Satellite Applications and Research, Madison, Wisconsin
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Abstract

Short-term (0–1 h) convective storm nowcasting remains a problem for operational weather forecasting, and convective storms pose a significant monetary sink for the aviation industry. Numerical weather prediction models, traditional meteorological observations, and radar are all useful for short-term convective forecasting, but all have shortcomings. Geostationary imagers, while having their own shortcomings, are valuable assets for addressing the convective initiation nowcast problem. The University of Wisconsin Convective Initiation (UWCI) nowcasting algorithm is introduced for use as an objective, satellite-based decision support tool. The UWCI algorithm computes Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Imager infrared window channel box-averaged cloud-top cooling rates and creates convective initiation nowcasts based on a combination of cloud-top cooling rates and satellite-derived cloud-top type–phase trends. The UWCI approach offers advantages over existing techniques, such as increased computational efficiency (decreased runtime) and day–night independence. A validation of the UWCI algorithm relative to cloud-to-ground lightning initiation events is also presented for 23 convective afternoons and 11 convective nights over the central United States during April–June and 1 night of July during 2008 and 2009. The mean probability of detection and false-alarm ratio are 56.3% (47.0%) and 25.5% (34.8%), respectively, for regions within a Storm Prediction Center severe storm risk area (entire validation domain). The UWCI algorithm is shown to perform 1) better in regimes with storms developing in previously clear to partly cloudy skies and along sharp boundaries and 2) poorer in other regimes such as scenes covered with cirrus shields, existing convective anvils, and fast cloud motion.

Corresponding author address: Justin Sieglaff, 1225 West Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. Email: justins@ssec.wisc.edu

Abstract

Short-term (0–1 h) convective storm nowcasting remains a problem for operational weather forecasting, and convective storms pose a significant monetary sink for the aviation industry. Numerical weather prediction models, traditional meteorological observations, and radar are all useful for short-term convective forecasting, but all have shortcomings. Geostationary imagers, while having their own shortcomings, are valuable assets for addressing the convective initiation nowcast problem. The University of Wisconsin Convective Initiation (UWCI) nowcasting algorithm is introduced for use as an objective, satellite-based decision support tool. The UWCI algorithm computes Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Imager infrared window channel box-averaged cloud-top cooling rates and creates convective initiation nowcasts based on a combination of cloud-top cooling rates and satellite-derived cloud-top type–phase trends. The UWCI approach offers advantages over existing techniques, such as increased computational efficiency (decreased runtime) and day–night independence. A validation of the UWCI algorithm relative to cloud-to-ground lightning initiation events is also presented for 23 convective afternoons and 11 convective nights over the central United States during April–June and 1 night of July during 2008 and 2009. The mean probability of detection and false-alarm ratio are 56.3% (47.0%) and 25.5% (34.8%), respectively, for regions within a Storm Prediction Center severe storm risk area (entire validation domain). The UWCI algorithm is shown to perform 1) better in regimes with storms developing in previously clear to partly cloudy skies and along sharp boundaries and 2) poorer in other regimes such as scenes covered with cirrus shields, existing convective anvils, and fast cloud motion.

Corresponding author address: Justin Sieglaff, 1225 West Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. Email: justins@ssec.wisc.edu

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