Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Engineering Physics

First Advisor

Robert S. Wacker, PhD.


Lightning initiation is a major forecast challenge faced by Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron (45 WS), which provides weather support to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center (KSC). Prior studies by Thurmond (2014) and Woodard (2011) have shown that dual-polarization (DP) radar can be used to identify the presence of hydrometeors indicative of cloud charging, leading to improved lightning initiation forecasts. The 45 WS currently employs empirical lightning initiation forecast rules which state that in-cloud lightning is likely when radar reflectivity meets or exceeds 37.0 dBZ above the -10°C height. This study examined 249 convective cells from March 2012 to March 2014 in order to incorporate DP parameters into existing forecast principles. In-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning ash data were obtained from the KSC Four Dimensional Lightning Surveillance System, and DP data were obtained from the Melbourne, Florida WSR-88D. Lightning initiation forecast lead times, probabilities of detection, and false alarm rates were compared between candidate DP-based forecast techniques and techniques employed by 45 WS.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number