During the spring and summer of 2006, a network of eight lightning mapping stations has been set up in the greater DC metropolitan area to monitor the total lightning activity in storms over Virginia, Maryland and the Washington DC area. The network is a joint project between New Mexico Tech, NASA, and NOAA/National Weather Service, with real-time data being provided to the NWS for use in their forecast and warning operations. The network utilizes newly available portable stations developed with support from the National Science Foundation. Cooperating institutions involved in hosting mapping stations are Howard University, Montgomery County Community College in Rockville MD, NOAA/NWS's Test and Evaluation Site in Sterling, VA, College of Southern Maryland near La Plata MD, the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA, the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and George Mason University (Prince William Campus) in Manassas, VA. The network is experimental in that its stations a) operate in the upper rather than the lower VHF (TV channel 10, 192-198 MHz) to reduce the radio frequency background noise associated with urban environments, and b) are linked to the central processing site via the internet rather than by dedicated wireless communication links. The central processing is done in Huntsville, AL, and updated observations are sent to the National Weather Service every 2 min. The observational data will also be available on a public website. The higher operating frequency results in a decrease in signal strength estimated to be about 15-20 dB, relative to the LMA networks being operated in northern Alabama and central Oklahoma (which operate on TV channels 5 and 3, respectively). This is offset somewhat by decreased background noise levels at many stations. The receiver threshold levels range from about -95 dBm up to -80 dBm and the peak lightning signals typically extend 15-20 dB above the threshold values. Despite having decreased sensitivity, the network locates lightning in plan position over all of Maryland and Delaware, much of Virginia, and into Southern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 3-D coverage is provided out to 100-150 km range from the Sterling WFO including the 3 major DC commercial airports (Reagan National, Dulles International, and Baltimore Washington International). The network will eventually consist of 10 or more stations, which will extend and improve its coverage.
Meteorology and Climatology
2006 Fall American Geophysical Union Meeting; 11-15 Dec. 2006; San Francisco, CA; United States