Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
28 Oct 2008
 | 28 Oct 2008

Thunderstorm nowcasting by means of lightning and radar data: algorithms and applications in northern Italy

P. Bonelli and P. Marcacci

Abstract. Thunderstorms and their ground effects, such as flash floods, hail, lightning, strong winds, and tornadoes, are responsible for most weather damages in northern Italy, especially in the warm season from May to September. A nowcasting and warning system focused on severe thunderstorm events would be useful to reduce risks for people involved in outside activities and for electric, telecommunication, and sensitive industrial business. C-band radar and Lighting Location Systems provide useful, fast and high resolution data for the detection of convective systems and for following their dynamics. The whole of northern Italy is covered by radar with a resolution of 1 km and by a lightning network with a mean accuracy of 0.5 km on the single point of impact. The authors present an algorithm developed for tracking high intensity storm cells by means of radar and lightning data. Application to northern Italy reveals that tracking thunderstorm cells can be used as an alert system that may help prevent damages from extreme weather, as well as allowing for studying the correlation among lightning, rainfall and tornado occurrence. Assessing the algorithm skill is also discussed, and a forecast verification method is described and applied for the duration of a thunderstorm season.