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Michael F. Donovan
Earle R. Williams
Cathy Kessinger
Gary Blackburn
Paul H. Herzegh
Richard L. Bankert
Steve Miller
, and
Frederick R. Mosher


Three algorithms based on geostationary visible and infrared (IR) observations are used to identify convective cells that do (or may) present a hazard to aviation over the oceans. The performance of these algorithms in detecting potentially hazardous cells is determined through verification with Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite observations of lightning and radar reflectivity, which provide internal information about the convective cells. The probability of detection of hazardous cells using the satellite algorithms can exceed 90% when lightning is used as a criterion for hazard, but the false-alarm ratio with all three algorithms is consistently large (∼40%), thereby exaggerating the presence of hazardous conditions. This shortcoming results in part from the algorithms’ dependence upon visible and IR observations, and can be traced to the widespread prevalence of deep cumulonimbi with weak updrafts but without lightning over tropical oceans, whose origin is attributed to significant entrainment during ascent.

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