Oklahoma lightning mapping array now expanded

The Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array can map up to twelve thousand points per second, and so can reveal where a flash originates and how it develops in a storm. An example of a flash is shown in this figure. The top two panels show altitude as a function of time. The second of these is a more expanded view, from 20:00.6 – 20:02.2 UT (a period of 1 minute 36 seconds). Color coding indicates elapsed time, with purple being earliest and red being latest. The bottom left panel shows the view one would have from above the storm. The panel just above it shows the view from the south. The lower-right panel shows the view, rotated on its side, one would see from the west. The tics in these three panels are labeled in kilometers from the center of the lightning mapping array, so the east and north dimensions are each 120 km.

NSSL’s Field Observing Facilities Support (FOFS) team just finished installing seven new lightning mapping stations in the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array (OKLMA).  The new sites in southwest Oklahoma, in addition to 11 existing stations in central Oklahoma, are all now operational, just in time for the Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) project that began in May.

The OK-LMA provides three-dimensional mapping of lightning channel segments over west central Oklahoma and two-dimensional mapping of all lightning over most of Oklahoma. Up to thousands of points can be mapped for an individual lightning flash, to reveal its location and the development of its structure.

NSSL scientists hope to learn more about how storms produce intra-cloud and cloud-to-ground flashes and how each type is related to tornadoes and other severe weather.

The OKLMA data will complement DC3 atmospheric chemistry measurements to help estimate how much NOx, an ozone-precursor, is produced by lightning.  Real-time lightning observations also will be used by scientists to help keep research aircraft away from lightning hazards to on-board equipment and flight instruments.