In 2016, the Jonathan Merage Foundation established a partnership with the University of Hawaii’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology to research severe weather. In collaboration with Dr. Steve Businger and his postdoctoral student, Daniel Argueso, the Jonathan Merage Foundation has supported the informative research around tornadic activity, the formation of hurricanes, and lightning data.
As a way of continuing this relationship, the Jonathan Merage Foundation is expanding their partnership to include a new project aimed at improving severe weather forecasting and warning lead-times associated with thunderstorms on the Front Range. Currently, they have established a network of 12 Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) systems north of Denver to monitor lightning activity. This new project will include the installation of six additional sensor stations south of the city and in the Denver Metro Area. Two new sensors will be installed this year, with four additional sensors being installed over the next two years.
“Not only will this project allow us to provide better information to the Colorado community about incoming and potential severe thunderstorms,” said Professor Steven Businger, chair of the Atmospheric Science Department at the University of Hawaii and project lead, “but it will allow scientists to study and refine relationships between lightning information and the tornadic potential of thunderstorms. It will allow us to better predict dangerous storms and improve lead-times for tornado warnings, which has the potential to save lives.”
LMA sensors are able to track distinct tornado signatures that appear thirty minutes prior to the formation of a tornado and can be used to predict severe storms that produce damaging straight-line winds and large sized hail.
In addition to this project, the Jonathan Merage Foundation and the University of Hawaii have partnered on other projects focused on the investigation of long-range lightning data. “Last year we developed a tropical storm model that can assimilate lightning data,” said Businger. “This year we aim to improve the way cloud processes are handled in the model and run some case studies, such as Hurricane Patricia and Typhoon Haiyan, through the model. This year will get us closer to our goal of improving our ability to predict the track and intensity of tropical cyclones.”