Abstract

As lightning-detection records lengthen and the efficiency of severe weather reporting increases, more accurate climatologies of convective hazards can be constructed. In this study we aggregate flashes from the NLDN and ATDnet lightning-detection networks with severe weather reports from ESWD and SPC Storm Data on a common grid of 0.25° and 1-hour steps. Each year approximately 75–200 thunderstorm hours occur over the southwestern, central and eastern United States, with a peak over Florida (200–250 hours). The activity over the majority of Europe ranges 15–100 hours, with peaks over Italy and mountains (Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathians, Dinaric Alps; 100–150 hours). The highest convective activity over continental Europe occurs during summer and over the Mediterranean during autumn. The United States peak for tornadoes and large hail reports is in spring, preceding the maximum of lightning and severe wind reports by 1–2 months. Convective hazards occur typically in the late afternoon, with the exception of the Midwest and Great Plains, where mesoscale convective systems shift peak lightning threat to the night. The severe wind threat is delayed by 1–2 hours compared to hail and tornadoes. The fraction of nocturnal lightning over land ranges 15%–30% with lowest values observed over Florida and mountains (∼10%). Wintertime lightning shares the highest fraction of severe weather. Compared to Europe, extreme events are considerably more frequent over the United States, with maximum activity over the Great Plains. However, the threat over Europe should not be underestimated, as severe weather outbreaks with damaging winds, very large hail and significant tornadoes occasionally occur over densely populated areas.

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