Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Ronald P. Lowther, PhD


The goal of this research was to examine the possibility of establishing guidance for lightning avoidance and lightning warning criteria based upon lightning radar reflectivity signatures. Determining how far naturally occurring lightning normally travels from thunderstorms can provide insight to decision makers concerning in-flight and ground safety measures. 3D lightning data are merged with archived weather radar data. To analyze the radar characteristics of the lightning data, radar data are interpolated to a 3D grid of reflectivity. Lightning flashes were analyzed to resolve the reflectivity of the flash origin and to determine the distance of the flash origin from the nearest radar reflectivity core--defined as a radar reflectivity factor (dBZ) of greater than 40-dBZ. 95% of the flash origins were located within 3 km of the nearest 40-dBZ composite reflectivity echo, while 95% of the flash origins were within 6 km of the nearest 40-dBZ base reflectivity echo. 99% of the flashes traveled less than 30 km from the flash origin, and less than 21 km from the nearest 40-dBZ echo. The results indicate that it should be feasible to suggest lightning avoidance criteria based upon the radar reflectivity from ground or airborne radars.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number


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Meteorology Commons