Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Research article
17 Feb 2012
Research article |  | 17 Feb 2012

Instability indices and forecasting thunderstorms: the case of 30 April 2009

S. Tajbakhsh, P. Ghafarian, and F. Sahraian

Abstract. In this paper, one meteorological case study for two Iranian airports are presented. Attempts have been made to study the predefined threshold amounts of some instability indices such as vertical velocity and relative humidity. Two important output variables from a numerical weather prediction model have been used to survey thunderstorms. The climatological state of thunder days in Iran has been determined to aid in choosing the airports for the case studies. The synoptic pattern, atmospheric thermodynamics and output from a numerical weather prediction model have been studied to evaluate the occurrence of storms and to verify the threshold instability indices that are based on Gordon and Albert (2000) and Miller (1972).

Using data from the Statistics and Data Center of the Iran Meteorological Organization, 195 synoptic stations were used to study the climatological pattern of thunderstorm days in Iran during a 15-yr period (1991–2005). Synoptic weather maps and thermodynamic diagrams have been drawn using data from synoptic stations and radiosonde data. A 15-km resolution version of the WRF numerical model has been implemented for the Middle East region with the assistance of global data from University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

The Tabriz airport weather station has been selected for further study due to its high frequency of thunderstorms (more than 35 thunderstorm days per year) and the existence of an upper air station. Despite the fact that storms occur less often at the Tehran weather station, the station has been chosen as the second case study site due to its large amount of air traffic. Using these two case studies (Tehran at 00:00 UTC, 31 April 2009 and Tabriz at 12:00 UTC, 31 April 2009), the results of this research show that the threshold amounts of 30 °C for KI, −2 °C for LI and −3 °C for SI suggests the occurrence and non-occurrence of thunderstorms at the Tehran and Tabriz stations, respectively. The WRF model output of vertical velocity and relative humidity are the two most important indices for examining storm occurrence, and they have a numerical threshold of 1 m s−1 and 80%, respectively. These results are comparable to other studies that have examined thunderstorm occurrence.