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Thomas L. Gard
,
Henry E. Fuelberg
, and
John L. Cintineo

Abstract

Pulse severe storms are single-cell thunderstorms that produce severe wind and/or severe hail for a brief period of time. These storms pose a major warm season forecasting problem since forecasters presently do not have sufficient guidance to know which, if any, of the cells that are observed will become severe. The empirical Probability of Severe (ProbSevere) model, developed by the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), fuses real-time data to produce short-term (0–60 min), statistically derived probabilistic forecasts of thunderstorm intensity. This study evaluates the ability of ProbSevere to predict pulse severe storms in the southeast United States. ProbSevere objects fitting the usual definition of a pulse severe environment were matched with severe events from Storm Data to create a dataset of ProbSevere objects that corresponded to pulse severe thunderstorms. A null dataset consisted of objects in pulse severe environments that did not match with a severe event. Results reveal that ProbSevere’s probabilities are small to moderate at the times corresponding to pulse severe events. While probabilities of nonsevere storms are generally smaller, there are a large number of outliers. Lightning flash rate is the only predictor relevant to this study that correlates strongly with increasingly favorable pulse storm probabilities. We conclude that ProbSevere provides forecasters only limited guidance as to whether a pulse severe event will soon occur. Developing a version of ProbSevere specifically for pulse severe storms would likely lead to better predictability for this mode of convection.

Free access
John L. Cintineo
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
, and
Justin M. Sieglaff

Abstract

Lightning strikes pose a hazard to human life and property, and can be difficult to forecast in a timely manner. In this study, a satellite-based machine learning model was developed to provide objective, short-term, location-specific probabilistic guidance for next-hour lightning activity. Using a convolutional neural network architecture designed for semantic segmentation, the model was trained using GOES-16 visible, shortwave infrared, and longwave infrared bands from the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). Next-hour GOES-16 Geostationary Lightning Mapper data were used as the truth or target data. The model, known as LightningCast, was trained over the GOES-16 ABI contiguous United States (CONUS) domain. However, the model is shown to generalize to GOES-16 full disk regions that are outside of the CONUS. LightningCast provides predictions for developing and advecting storms, regardless of solar illumination and meteorological conditions. LightningCast, which frequently provides 20 min or more of lead time to new lightning activity, learned salient features consistent with the scientific understanding of the relationships between lightning and satellite imagery interpretation. We also demonstrate that despite being trained on data from a single geostationary satellite domain (GOES-East), the model can be applied to other satellites (e.g., GOES-West) with comparable specifications and without substantial degradation in performance. LightningCast objectively transforms large volumes of satellite imagery into objective, actionable information. Potential application areas are also highlighted.

Significance Statement

The outcome of this research is a model that spatially forecasts lightning occurrence in a 0–60-min time window, using only images of clouds from the GOES-R Advanced Baseline Imager. This model has the potential to provide early alerts for developing and approaching hazardous conditions.

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Stephanie M. Ortland
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
, and
John L. Cintineo

Abstract

This paper presents the Thunderstorm Nowcasting Tool (ThunderCast), a 24-h, year-round model for predicting the location of convection that is likely to initiate or remain a thunderstorm in the next 0–60 min in the continental United States, adapted from existing deep learning convection applications. ThunderCast utilizes a U-Net convolutional neural network for semantic segmentation trained on 320 km × 320 km data patches with four inputs and one target dataset. The inputs are satellite bands from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-16 (GOES-16) Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) in the visible, shortwave infrared, and longwave infrared spectra, and the target is Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) radar reflectivity at the −10°C isotherm in the atmosphere. On a pixel-by-pixel basis, ThunderCast has high accuracy, recall, and specificity but is subject to false-positive predictions resulting in low precision. However, the number of false positives decreases when buffering the target values with a 15 km × 15 km centered window, indicating ThunderCast’s predictions are useful within a buffered area. To demonstrate the initial prediction capabilities of ThunderCast, three case studies are presented: a mesoscale convective vortex, sea-breeze convection, and monsoonal convection in the southwestern United States. The case studies illustrate that the ThunderCast model effectively nowcasts the location of newly initiated and ongoing active convection, within the next 60 min, under a variety of geographical and meteorological conditions.

Significance Statement

In this research, a machine learning model is developed for short-term (0–60 min) forecasting of thunderstorms in the continental United States using geostationary satellite imagery as inputs for predicting active convection based on radar thresholds. Pending additional testing, the model may be able to provide decision-support services for thunderstorm forecasting. The case studies presented here indicate the model is able to nowcast convective initiation with 5–35 min of lead time in areas without radar coverage and anticipate future locations of storms without additional environmental context.

Open access
John L. Cintineo
,
Travis M. Smith
,
Valliappa Lakshmanan
,
Harold E. Brooks
, and
Kiel L. Ortega

Abstract

The threat of damaging hail from severe thunderstorms affects many communities and industries on a yearly basis, with annual economic losses in excess of $1 billion (U.S. dollars). Past hail climatology has typically relied on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Climatic Data Center’s (NOAA/NCDC) Storm Data publication, which has numerous reporting biases and nonmeteorological artifacts. This research seeks to quantify the spatial and temporal characteristics of contiguous United States (CONUS) hail fall, derived from multiradar multisensor (MRMS) algorithms for several years during the Next-Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) era, leveraging the Multiyear Reanalysis of Remotely Sensed Storms (MYRORSS) dataset at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). The primary MRMS product used in this study is the maximum expected size of hail (MESH). The preliminary climatology includes 42 months of quality controlled and reprocessed MESH grids, which spans the warm seasons for four years (2007–10), covering 98% of all Storm Data hail reports during that time. The dataset has 0.01° latitude × 0.01° longitude × 31 vertical levels spatial resolution, and 5-min temporal resolution. Radar-based and reports-based methods of hail climatology are compared. MRMS MESH demonstrates superior coverage and resolution over Storm Data hail reports, and is largely unbiased. The results reveal a broad maximum of annual hail fall in the Great Plains and a diminished secondary maximum in the Southeast United States. Potential explanations for the differences in the two methods of hail climatology are also discussed.

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John L. Cintineo
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
,
Justin M. Sieglaff
,
Anthony Wimmers
,
Jason Brunner
, and
Willard Bellon

Abstract

Intense thunderstorms threaten life and property, impact aviation, and are a challenging forecast problem, particularly without precipitation-sensing radar data. Trained forecasters often look for features in geostationary satellite images such as rapid cloud growth, strong and persistent overshooting tops, U- or V-shaped patterns in storm-top temperature (and associated above-anvil cirrus plumes), thermal couplets, intricate texturing in cloud albedo (e.g., “bubbling” cloud tops), cloud-top divergence, spatial and temporal trends in lightning, and other nuances to identify intense thunderstorms. In this paper, a machine-learning algorithm was employed to automatically learn and extract salient features and patterns in geostationary satellite data for the prediction of intense convection. Namely, a convolutional neural network (CNN) was trained on 0.64-μm reflectance and 10.35-μm brightness temperature from the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) and flash-extent density (FED) from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) on board GOES-16. Using a training dataset consisting of over 220 000 human-labeled satellite images, the CNN learned pertinent features that are known to be associated with intense convection and skillfully discriminated between intense and ordinary convection. The CNN also learned a more nuanced feature associated with intense convection—strong infrared brightness temperature gradients near cloud edges in the vicinity of the main updraft. A successive-permutation test ranked the most important predictors as follows: 1) ABI 10.35-μm brightness temperature, 2) ABI GLM flash-extent density, and 3) ABI 0.64-μm reflectance. The CNN model can provide forecasters with quantitative information that often foreshadows the occurrence of severe weather, day or night, over the full range of instrument-scan modes.

Full access
John L. Cintineo
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
,
Justin M. Sieglaff
, and
Andrew K. Heidinger

Abstract

Geostationary satellites [e.g., the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)] provide high temporal resolution of cloud development and motion, which is essential to the study of many mesoscale phenomena, including thunderstorms. Initial research on thunderstorm growth with geostationary imagery focused on the mature stages of storm evolution, whereas more recent research on satellite-observed storm growth has concentrated on convective initiation, often defined arbitrarily as the presence of a given radar echo threshold. This paper seeks to link the temporal trends in robust GOES-derived cloud properties with the future occurrence of severe-weather radar signatures during the development phase of thunderstorm evolution, which includes convective initiation. Two classes of storms (severe and nonsevere) are identified and tracked over time in satellite imagery, providing distributions of satellite growth rates for each class. The relationship between the temporal trends in satellite-derived cloud properties and Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD)-derived storm attributes is used to show that this satellite-based approach can potentially be used to extend severe-weather-warning lead times (with respect to radar-derived signatures), without a substantial increase in false alarms. In addition, the effect of varying temporal sampling is investigated on several storms during a period of GOES super-rapid-scan operations (SRSOR). It is found that, from a satellite perspective, storms evolve significantly on time scales shorter than the current GOES operational scan strategies.

Full access
John L. Cintineo
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
,
Justin M. Sieglaff
,
Lee Cronce
, and
Jason Brunner

ABSTRACT

Severe convective storms are hazardous to both life and property and thus their accurate and timely prediction is imperative. In response to this critical need to help fulfill the mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin (UW) have developed NOAA ProbSevere—an operational short-term forecasting subsystem within the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor (MRMS) system, providing storm-based probabilistic guidance to severe convective hazards. ProbSevere extracts and integrates pertinent data from a variety of meteorological sources via multiplatform multiscale storm identification and tracking in order to compute severe hazard probabilities in a statistical framework, using naïve Bayesian classifiers. Version 1 of ProbSevere (PSv1) employed one model—the “probability of any severe hazard” trained on the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) criteria. Version 2 of ProbSevere (PSv2) implements four models, three naïve Bayesian classifiers trained to specific hazards: 1) severe hail, 2) severe straight-line wind gusts, 3) tornadoes; and a combined model for any of the aforementioned hazards, which takes the maximum probability of the three classifiers. This paper overviews the ProbSevere system and details the construction and selection of predictors for the models. An evaluation of the four models demonstrated that v2 is more skillful than v1 for each severe hazard with higher critical success index scores and that the optimal probability threshold varies by region of the United States. The discussion highlights PSv2 in NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) and current and future research for convective nowcasting.

Free access
John L. Cintineo
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
,
Justin M. Sieglaff
, and
Daniel T. Lindsey

Abstract

The formation and maintenance of thunderstorms that produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes are often difficult to forecast due to their rapid evolution and complex interactions with environmental features that are challenging to observe. Given inherent uncertainties in storm development, it is intuitive to predict severe storms in a probabilistic manner. This paper presents such an approach to forecasting severe thunderstorms and their associated hazards, fusing together data from several sources as input into a statistical model. Mesoscale numerical weather prediction (NWP) models have been developed in part to forecast environments favorable to severe storm development. Geostationary satellites, such as the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) series, maintain a frequently updating view of growing cumulus clouds over the contiguous United States to provide temporal trends in developing convection to forecasters. The Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) network delivers repeated scans of hydrometeors inside storms, monitoring the intensification of hydrometeor size and extent, as well as hydrometeor motion. Forecasters utilize NWP models, and GOES and NEXRAD data, at different stages of the forecast of severe storms, and the model described in this paper exploits data from each in an attempt to predict severe hazards in a more accurate and timely manner while providing uncertainty information to the forecaster. A preliminary evaluation of the model demonstrates good skill in the forecast of storms, and also displays the potential to increase lead time on severe hazards, as measured relative to the issuance times of National Weather Service (NWS) severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings and occurrence times of severe events in local storm reports.

Full access
John L. Cintineo
,
Michael J. Pavolonis
,
Justin M. Sieglaff
,
Daniel T. Lindsey
,
Lee Cronce
,
Jordan Gerth
,
Benjamin Rodenkirch
,
Jason Brunner
, and
Chad Gravelle

Abstract

The empirical Probability of Severe (ProbSevere) model, developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), automatically extracts information related to thunderstorm development from several data sources to produce timely, short-term, statistical forecasts of thunderstorm intensity. More specifically, ProbSevere utilizes short-term numerical weather prediction guidance (NWP), geostationary satellite, ground-based radar, and ground-based lightning data to determine the probability that convective storm cells will produce severe weather up to 90 min in the future. ProbSevere guidance, which updates approximately every 2 min, is available to National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Offices with very short latency. This paper focuses on the integration of ground-based lightning detection data into ProbSevere. In addition, a thorough validation analysis is presented. The validation analysis demonstrates that ProbSevere has slightly less skill compared to NWS severe weather warnings, but can offer greater lead time to initial hazards. Feedback from NWS users has been highly favorable, with most forecasters responding that ProbSevere increases confidence and lead time in numerous warning situations.

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Christopher D. Karstens
,
James Correia Jr.
,
Daphne S. LaDue
,
Jonathan Wolfe
,
Tiffany C. Meyer
,
David R. Harrison
,
John L. Cintineo
,
Kristin M. Calhoun
,
Travis M. Smith
,
Alan E. Gerard
, and
Lans P. Rothfusz

Abstract

Providing advance warning for impending severe convective weather events (i.e., tornadoes, hail, wind) fundamentally requires an ability to predict and/or detect these hazards and subsequently communicate their potential threat in real time. The National Weather Service (NWS) provides advance warning for severe convective weather through the issuance of tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings, a system that has remained relatively unchanged for approximately the past 65 years. Forecasting a Continuum of Environmental Threats (FACETs) proposes a reinvention of this system, transitioning from a deterministic product-centric paradigm to one based on probabilistic hazard information (PHI) for hazardous weather events. Four years of iterative development and rapid prototyping in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT) with NWS forecasters and partners has yielded insights into this new paradigm by discovering efficient ways to generate, inform, and utilize a continuous flow of information through the development of a human–machine mix. Forecasters conditionally used automated object-based guidance within four levels of automation to issue deterministic products containing PHI. Forecasters accomplished this task in a timely manner while focusing on communication and conveying forecast confidence, elements considered necessary by emergency managers. Observed annual increases in the usage of first-guess probabilistic guidance by forecasters were related to improvements made to the prototyped software, guidance, and techniques. However, increasing usage of automation requires improvements in guidance, data integration, and data visualization to garner trust more effectively. Additional opportunities exist to address limitations in procedures for motion derivation and geospatial mapping of subjective probability.

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