Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Clifton E. Dungey, PhD


On April 29, 1996, lightning struck the airfield at Hurlburt Field, FL, killing one Airmen and injuring ten others. This cloud to ground lightning strike hit eight minutes after a lightning advisory was canceled. At the time of the strike, thunderstorms were observed 7 to 10 miles north and south of the airfield. The incident raised questions about Air Force Weather Agency's lightning criteria. Soon after the incident, a Lightning Safety Review Panel was assembled to determine the adequacy of lightning advisories. One of the questions posed to the panel was could an incident like Hurlburt happen again? The review panel could not answer that question due to the lack of documented research on how far lightning can travel horizontally before striking the ground. This thesis used the WSR-88D Algorithm Testing and Display System (WATADS) and the default parameters of the WATADS's Storm Cell Identification and Tracking (SCIT) Algorithm to identify thunderstorm centroids. Lightning strike data containing nearly 50,000 cloud to ground strikes was obtained through the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Horizontal distances were then computed between these storm centroids and cloud to ground lightning strikes. This research discovered that average distances between thunderstorm centroids and lightning strikes vary with season and location. In addition, nearly 75% of all lightning strikes occurred within 10 nautical miles of thunderstorm centroids.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number


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Meteorology Commons