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Atmosphere 2017, 8(4), 67; doi:10.3390/atmos8040067

Using Satellite and Lightning Data to Track Rapidly Developing Thunderstorms in Data Sparse Regions

1
South African Weather Service, Pretoria 0181, Gauteng, South Africa
2
World Meteorological Organization, Geneva 1211, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Guifu Zhang
Received: 10 February 2017 / Revised: 17 March 2017 / Accepted: 22 March 2017 / Published: 20 April 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Radar Meteorology)
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Abstract

Radar systems provide the most useful information about the intensity, movement, and characteristics of severe thunderstorms, but are expensive to maintain and require extensive maintenance. In South Africa, some areas are not covered by radar systems, while very few operational radar systems exist in other southern African countries. Despite these shortcomings, all meteorological centers still have to warn the public of pending severe weather events. The Nowcasting Satellite Application Facility (NWC SAF) in Europe developed software that utilizes satellite data to identify and track rapidly developing thunderstorms (RDT). The NWC software was installed at the South African Weather Service in 2014. Initially, the RDT product was validated against lightning data and the results showed that the RDT product could provide very useful information on possible severe or intense convective storms. This study focusses on the effects of including lightning as an ancillary dataset into the algorithms and then validating the RDT product against radar data. Twenty-five summer cases were considered to determine whether the inclusion of lightning data had a positive effect on the accuracy of the RDT product, when compared to radar data. The results of this study show that in the majority of the cases, the inclusion of lightning data was beneficial to the RDT product. On average the Probability of Detection (POD) improved by 6.6%, the Heidke Skill Score (HSS) by 4.6%, and the False alarm ratio (FAR) by 0.1%. To our knowledge, South Africa is the only African country which is running the NWC SAF software operationally and which has performed an evaluation of the product over Africa against observations from radar systems and lightning sensors. The outcomes of this study are very encouraging for other countries in Africa where convection and severe convection often occur and sophisticated data sources are absent. Initial studies over East Africa indicate that the RDT product can benefit operational practices for the nowcasting of severe convection events. View Full-Text
Keywords: satellite; nowcasting; thunderstorms; data sparse regions; radar; lightning satellite; nowcasting; thunderstorms; data sparse regions; radar; lightning
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Gijben, M.; de Coning, E. Using Satellite and Lightning Data to Track Rapidly Developing Thunderstorms in Data Sparse Regions. Atmosphere 2017, 8, 67.

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