Abstract

This study examines the characteristics of tropical cyclone (TC) lightning distribution and its relationship with TC intensity and environmental vertical wind shear (VWS) over the western North Pacific. It uses data from the World Wide Lightning Location Network and operational global analysis data from National Centers for Environmental Prediction Final Analysis for 230 TCs during 2005–17. The spatial distribution of TC lightning frequency and normalized lightning rate demonstrates that the VWS dominates the azimuthal distribution of the lightning. The flashes are active in the downshear-left side of the inner core and the downshear-right side of the outer region. TC lightning distribution for various VWS strengths and TC intensities are further investigated. As VWS increases, the flashes of lightning become more asymmetric and exhibit a higher proportion at the outer region of the downshear side. Moreover, the same features occur as TC intensity decreases. A series of composite analyses indicated that stronger TCs with weaker VWS exhibit a more compact and symmetric lightning distribution, whereas weaker TCs with stronger VWS have a more asymmetric lightning distribution. Furthermore, the TC lightning distribution and its association with TC intensity changes are also examined for three lead times. Results show that among the composite analyses of five TC intensity changes, the lightning distribution for rapid intensification type exhibits more inner-core lightning and is more axisymmetric than the distributions for other categories. These features result from favorable environmental conditions comprising greater upper-level divergence, sea surface temperature, maximum potential intensity, and weaker vertical wind shear.

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