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Orit Altaratz
,
Zev Levin
,
Yoav Yair and
, and
Baruch Ziv

Abstract

This paper presents a study of the characteristics of lightning activity during the Cyprus low winter storms over the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The focus is on changes in the nature of thunderstorms crossing the coastline from the sea into the northern and central parts of Israel, as manifested in their electrical activity. It is based on the Lightning Position and Tracking System (LPATS) measurements of lightning ground strikes during four winter seasons between 1995 and 1999. The spatial distribution shows a maximum of lightning ground strikes over Mount Carmel, possibly due to its topographical forcing. The annual variation shows a major maximum in January with two minor peaks, one in November and another in March, which can be explained by changes in the static instability of the atmosphere throughout the rainy period. The average fraction of positive ground flashes was found to be 6% and their average peak current +41 kA. The average peak current of negative ground flashes was −27 kA.

Larger frequencies of ground flashes were detected over the sea than over land during the study period. This is probably due to the large heat and humidity fluxes from the sea surface, which destabilize the colder air above and drive cloud convection. The annual distribution shows that during midwinter (December–January–February) there is higher flash density over the sea, while during autumn and spring the flash density is similar above the two regions.

The diurnal variation shows that the maximum in maritime lightning activity was at 0500 LST and over land at 1300 LST. The mean peak current of positive ground flashes was higher over land and of negative ground flashes, over the sea.

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