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Antti T. Pessi and Steven Businger

Abstract

Lightning data from the Pacific Lightning Detection Network (PacNet) and Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite were compared with TRMM precipitation radar products and latent heating and hydrometeor data. Three years of data over the central North Pacific Ocean were analyzed. The data were divided into winter (October–April) and summer (June–September) seasons. During the winter, the thunderstorms were typically embedded in cold fronts associated with eastward-propagating extratropical cyclones. Summer thunderstorms were triggered by cold upper-level lows associated with the tropical upper-tropospheric trough (TUTT). Concurrent lightning and satellite data associated with the storms were averaged over 0.5° × 0.5° grid cells and a detection efficiency correction model was applied to quantify the lightning rates. The results of the data analysis show a consistent logarithmic increase in convective rainfall rate with increasing lightning rates. Moreover, other storm characteristics such as radar reflectivity, storm height, ice water path, and latent heat show a similar logarithmic increase. Specifically, the reflectivity in the mixed-phase region increased significantly with lightning rate and the lapse rate of Z decreased; both of these features are well-known indicators of the robustness of the cloud electrification process. In addition, the height of the echo tops showed a strong logarithmic correlation with lightning rate. These results have application over data-sparse ocean regions by allowing lightning-rate data to be used as a proxy for related storm properties, which can be assimilated into NWP models.

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