Regional, Seasonal, and Diurnal Variations of Cloud-to-Ground Lightning with Large Impulse Charge Moment Changes

Nick K. Beavis Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Timothy J. Lang NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center, Huntsville, Alabama

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Steven A. Rutledge Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado

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Walter A. Lyons FMA Research, Inc., Fort Collins, Colorado

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Steven A. Cummer Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

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Abstract

The use of both total charge moment change (CMC) and impulse charge moment change (iCMC) magnitudes to assess the potential of a cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning stroke to induce a mesospheric sprite has been well described in the literature, particularly on a case study basis. In this climatological study, large iCMC discharges for thresholds of >100 and >300 C km in both positive and negative polarities are analyzed on a seasonal basis. Also presented are local solar time diurnal distributions in eight different regions covering the lower 48 states as well as the adjacent Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf Stream.

The seasonal maps show the predisposition of large positive iCMCs to dominate across the northern Great Plains, with large negative iCMCs favored in the southeastern United States year-round. During summer, the highest frequency of large positive iCMCs across the upper Midwest aligns closely with the preferred tracks of nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). As iCMC values increase above 300 C km, the maximum shifts eastward of the 100 C km maximum in the central plains.

Diurnal distributions in the eight regions support these conclusions, with a nocturnal peak in large iCMC discharges in the northern Great Plains and Great Lakes, an early to midafternoon peak in the Intermountain West and the southeastern United States, and a morning peak in large iCMC discharge activity over the Atlantic Ocean. Large negative iCMCs peak earlier in time than large positive iCMCs, which may be attributed to the growth of large stratiform charge reservoirs following initial convective development.

Corresponding author address: Steven A. Rutledge, Colorado State University, 123 Lake St., Fort Collins, CO 80523. E-mail: rutledge@atmos.colostate.edu

Abstract

The use of both total charge moment change (CMC) and impulse charge moment change (iCMC) magnitudes to assess the potential of a cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning stroke to induce a mesospheric sprite has been well described in the literature, particularly on a case study basis. In this climatological study, large iCMC discharges for thresholds of >100 and >300 C km in both positive and negative polarities are analyzed on a seasonal basis. Also presented are local solar time diurnal distributions in eight different regions covering the lower 48 states as well as the adjacent Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf Stream.

The seasonal maps show the predisposition of large positive iCMCs to dominate across the northern Great Plains, with large negative iCMCs favored in the southeastern United States year-round. During summer, the highest frequency of large positive iCMCs across the upper Midwest aligns closely with the preferred tracks of nocturnal mesoscale convective systems (MCSs). As iCMC values increase above 300 C km, the maximum shifts eastward of the 100 C km maximum in the central plains.

Diurnal distributions in the eight regions support these conclusions, with a nocturnal peak in large iCMC discharges in the northern Great Plains and Great Lakes, an early to midafternoon peak in the Intermountain West and the southeastern United States, and a morning peak in large iCMC discharge activity over the Atlantic Ocean. Large negative iCMCs peak earlier in time than large positive iCMCs, which may be attributed to the growth of large stratiform charge reservoirs following initial convective development.

Corresponding author address: Steven A. Rutledge, Colorado State University, 123 Lake St., Fort Collins, CO 80523. E-mail: rutledge@atmos.colostate.edu
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