Warm Season Lightning Probability Prediction for Canada and the Northern United States

William R. Burrows Meteorological Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada

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Colin Price Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

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Laurence J. Wilson Meteorological Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, Dorval, Québec, Canada

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Abstract

Statistical models valid May–September were developed to predict the probability of lightning in 3-h intervals using observations from the North American Lightning Detection Network and predictors derived from Global Environmental Multiscale (GEM) model output at the Canadian Meteorological Centre. Models were built with pooled data from the years 2000–01 using tree-structured regression. Error reduction by most models was about 0.4–0.7 of initial predictand variance.

Many predictors were required to model lightning occurrence for this large area. Highest ranked overall were the Showalter index, mean sea level pressure, and troposphere precipitable water. Three-hour changes of 500-hPa geopotential height, 500–1000-hPa thickness, and MSL pressure were highly ranked in most areas. The 3-h average of most predictors was more important than the mean or maximum (minimum where appropriate). Several predictors outranked CAPE, indicating it must appear with other predictors for successful statistical lightning prediction models.

Results presented herein demonstrate that tree-structured regression is a viable method for building statistical models to forecast lightning probability. Real-time forecasts in 3-h intervals to 45–48 h were made in 2003 and 2004. The 2003 verification suggests a hybrid forecast based on a mixture of maximum and mean forecast probabilities in a radius around a grid point and on monthly climatology will improve accuracy. The 2004 verification shows that the hybrid forecasts had positive skill with respect to a reference forecast and performed better than forecasts defined by either the mean or maximum probability at most times. This was achieved even though an increase of resolution and change of convective parameterization scheme were made to the GEM model in May 2004.

Corresponding author address: William R. Burrows, Environment Canada–MSC/PNR–Sciences Division, Twin Atria Bldg., Rm. 200, 4999 98th Ave., Edmonton, AB T6B 2X3, Canada. Email: william.burrows@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

Statistical models valid May–September were developed to predict the probability of lightning in 3-h intervals using observations from the North American Lightning Detection Network and predictors derived from Global Environmental Multiscale (GEM) model output at the Canadian Meteorological Centre. Models were built with pooled data from the years 2000–01 using tree-structured regression. Error reduction by most models was about 0.4–0.7 of initial predictand variance.

Many predictors were required to model lightning occurrence for this large area. Highest ranked overall were the Showalter index, mean sea level pressure, and troposphere precipitable water. Three-hour changes of 500-hPa geopotential height, 500–1000-hPa thickness, and MSL pressure were highly ranked in most areas. The 3-h average of most predictors was more important than the mean or maximum (minimum where appropriate). Several predictors outranked CAPE, indicating it must appear with other predictors for successful statistical lightning prediction models.

Results presented herein demonstrate that tree-structured regression is a viable method for building statistical models to forecast lightning probability. Real-time forecasts in 3-h intervals to 45–48 h were made in 2003 and 2004. The 2003 verification suggests a hybrid forecast based on a mixture of maximum and mean forecast probabilities in a radius around a grid point and on monthly climatology will improve accuracy. The 2004 verification shows that the hybrid forecasts had positive skill with respect to a reference forecast and performed better than forecasts defined by either the mean or maximum probability at most times. This was achieved even though an increase of resolution and change of convective parameterization scheme were made to the GEM model in May 2004.

Corresponding author address: William R. Burrows, Environment Canada–MSC/PNR–Sciences Division, Twin Atria Bldg., Rm. 200, 4999 98th Ave., Edmonton, AB T6B 2X3, Canada. Email: william.burrows@ec.gc.ca

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