Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Mathematics and Statistics

First Advisor

Edward D. White, PhD


Air Force Instruction 91-203 (AFI 91-203) directs that a lightning warning be issued when lightning is occurring or imminent within a 5 nautical mile (NM) radius of a predetermined location or activity. The 45 Weather Squadron (WS), located on the central eastern coast of Florida, balances the safety of personnel and space launch vehicles with lost productivity of taking shelter from lightning. The primary objective of this study investigates if this 5 NM safety radius can be reduced while maintaining a desired level of safety. The research uses processed Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR) data to map the movement of preexisting lightning storms using ellipses, which are updated with every lightning ash. A systematic recording ensues for the distance from the ellipse boundary of each ash occurring outside the ellipse. All of those exterior ash distances are then used to find the best-fit distribution from which the stand-off distance for the desired level of safety can be calculated. The distances from the edge of the ellipse are fit to a Weibull distribution and a new warning distance of 4 NM is selected as the most appropriate distance to balance safety and increase productivity. The 4 NM radius is tested with a resulting failure rate of .277%, with a savings of 22.5 8-hour man days a year for the months of May through September.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number



This thesis received the 2019 AFIT Chancellor's Award.