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Lawrence D. Carey
and
Kurt M. Buffalo

Abstract

In this study, it is hypothesized that the mesoscale environment can indirectly control the cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning polarity of severe storms by directly affecting their structural, dynamical, and microphysical properties, which in turn directly control cloud electrification and ground flash polarity. A more specific hypothesis, which has been supported by past observational and laboratory charging studies, suggests that broad, strong updrafts and associated large liquid water contents in severe storms lead to the generation of an inverted charge structure and enhanced +CG lightning production. The corollary is that environmental conditions favoring these kinematic and microphysical characteristics should support severe storms generating an anomalously high (>25%) percentage of +CG lightning (i.e., positive storms) while environmental conditions relatively less favorable should sustain storms characterized by a typical (≤25%) percentage of +CG lightning (i.e., negative storms). Forty-eight inflow proximity soundings were analyzed to characterize the environment of nine distinct mesoscale regions of severe storms (4 positive and 5 negative) on 6 days during May–June 2002 over the central United States. This analysis clearly demonstrated significant and systematic differences in the mesoscale environments of positive and negative storms, which were consistent with the stated hypothesis. When compared to negative storms, positive storms occurred in environments associated with a drier low to midtroposphere, higher cloud-base height, smaller warm cloud depth, stronger conditional instability, larger 0–3 km AGL wind shear, stronger 0–2 km AGL storm relative wind speed, and larger buoyancy in the mixed-phase zone, at a statistically significant level. Differences in the warm cloud depth of positive and negative storms were by far the most dramatic, suggesting an important role for this parameter in controlling CG lightning polarity. In this study, strong correlations between the mesoscale environment and CG lightning polarity were demonstrated. However, causality could not be verified due to a lack of in situ observations to confirm the hypothesized microphysical, dynamical, and electrical responses to variations in environmental conditions that ultimately determined the dominant CG polarity. Future observational field programs and cloud modeling studies should focus on these critical intermediary processes.

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Lawrence D. Carey
and
Steven A. Rutledge

Abstract

One of the primary scientific objectives of the Maritime Continent Thunderstorm Experiment was to study cloud electrification processes in tropical island convection, in particular, the coupling between ice phase precipitation and lightning production. To accomplish this goal, a C-band polarimetric radar was deployed in the Tropics (11.6°S, 130.8°E) for the first time, accompanied by a suite of lightning measurements. Using observations of the propagation-corrected horizontal reflectivity and differential reflectivity, along with specific differential phase, rain and ice masses were estimated during the entire life cycle of an electrically active tropical convective complex (known locally as Hector) over the Tiwi Islands on 28 November 1995. Hector’s precipitation structure as inferred from these raw and derived radar fields was then compared in time and space to the measured surface electric field, cloud-to-ground (CG) and total lightning flash rates, and ground strike locations.

During Hector’s developing stage, precipitating convective cells along island sea breezes were dominated by warm rain processes. No significant electric fields or lightning were associated with this stage of Hector, despite substantial rainfall rates. Aided by gust front forcing, a cumulus merger process resulted in larger, taller, and more intense convective complexes that were dominated by mixed-phase precipitation processes. During the mature phase of Hector, lightning and the surface electric field were strongly correlated to the mixed phase ice mass and rainfall. Merged convective complexes produced 97% of the rainfall and mixed-phase ice mass and 100% of the CG lightning. As Hector dissipated, lightning activity rapidly ceased.

As evidenced from the multiparameter radar observations, the multicell nature of Hector resulted in the continuous lofting of supercooled drops to temperatures between −10° and −20°C in discrete updraft cores during both the early and mature phases. The freezing of these drops provided instantaneous precipitation-sized ice particles that may have subsequently rimed and participated in thunderstorm electrification via the noninductive charging mechanism.

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Jian-Jian Wang
and
Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

A primary goal of the South China Sea Monsoon Experiment (SCSMEX), a major field campaign of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), is to define the initiation, structure, evolution, and dynamics of precipitation processes associated with the onset of the South China Sea (SCS) summer monsoon. In this study, dual-Doppler and dual-polarimetric radar analysis techniques are used to investigate the development and structure of a squall-line system observed on 24 May 1998. The focus is the linkage between the airflow and the microphysical fields through the system.

The squall-line system, including three distinct lines, persisted from 1200 UTC 24 May to the following day. A detailed study was performed on the structure of the second and most intense line, lasting for over 10 h. Compared to tropical squall lines observed in other regions, this narrow squall-line system had some interesting features including 1) maximum reflectivity as high as 55 dBZ; 2) relatively little stratiform rainfall that preceded instead of trailed the convective line; and 3) a broad vertical velocity maximum in the rear part of the system, rather than a narrow ribbon of vertical velocity maximum near the leading edge.

Polarimetric radar–inferred microphysical (e.g., hydrometeor type, amount, and size) and rainfall properties are placed in the context of the mesoscale morphology and dual-Doppler-derived kinematics for this squall-line system. A comparison is made between results from this study for SCSMEX and the previous studies for the TRMM Large-Scale Biosphere–Atmosphere experiment (LBA). It was found that precipitation over the SCS monsoon region during the summer monsoon onset was similar to the precipitation over the Amazon monsoon region during the westerly regime of the TRMM–LBA, which has previously been found to be closer to typical conditions over tropical oceans. Both of these cases showed lower rain rates and rainwater contents, smaller raindrops, and significantly lower ice water contents between 5 and 8 km than the precipitation over the Amazon during the easterly regime of the TRMM–LBA with more tropical continental characteristics.

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Scott M. Steiger
,
Richard E. Orville
, and
Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

It is shown that total lightning mapping, along with radar and National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) cloud-to-ground lightning data, can be used to diagnose the severity of a thunderstorm. Analysis of supercells, some of which were tornadic, on 13 October 2001 over Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas, shows that Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR II) lightning source heights (quartile, median, and 95th percentile heights) increased as the storms intensified. Most of the total (cloud to ground and intracloud) lightning occurred where reflectivity cores extended upward, within regions of strong reflectivity gradient rather than in reflectivity cores. A total lightning hole was associated with an intense, nontornadic supercell on 6 April 2003. None of the supercells on 13 October 2001 exhibited a lightning hole. During tornadogenesis, the radar and LDAR II data indicated updraft weakening. The height of the 30-dBZ radar top began to descend approximately 10 min (2 volume scans) before tornado touchdown in one storm. Total lightning and cloud-to-ground flash rates decreased by up to a factor of 5 to a minimum during an F2 tornado touchdown associated with this storm. LDAR II source heights all showed descent by 2–4 km during a 25-min period prior to and during this tornado touchdown. This drastic trend of decreasing source heights prior to and during tornado touchdown was observed in two storms, but did not occur in nontornadic supercells, suggesting that these parameters can be useful to forecasters. These observations agree with tornadogenesis theory that as the updraft weakens, the mesocyclone can divide (into an updraft and downdraft) and become tornadic.

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Scott M. Steiger
,
Richard E. Orville
, and
Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

Total lightning data from the Lightning Detection and Ranging (LDAR II) research network in addition to cloud-to-ground flash data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and data from the Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas, Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) station (KFWS) were examined from individual cells within mesoscale convective systems that crossed the Dallas–Fort Worth region on 13 October 2001, 27 May 2002, and 16 June 2002. LDAR II source density contours were comma shaped, in association with severe wind events within mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) on 13 October 2001 and 27 May 2002. This signature is similar to the radar reflectivity bow echo. The source density comma shape was apparent 15 min prior to a severe wind report and lasted more than 20 min during the 13 October storm. Consistent relationships between severe straight-line winds, radar, and lightning storm cell characteristics (e.g., lightning heights) were not found for cells within MCSs as was the case for severe weather in supercells in Part I of this study. Cell interactions within MCSs are believed to weaken these relationships as reflectivity and lightning from nearby storms contaminate the cells of interest. Another hypothesis for these weak relations is that system, not individual cell, processes are responsible for severe straight-line winds at the surface. Analysis of the total lightning structure of the 13 October 2001 MCS showed downward-sloping source density contours behind the main convective line into the stratiform region. This further supports a charge advection mechanism in developing the stratiform charge structure. Bimodal vertical source density distributions were observed within MCS convection close to the center of the LDAR II network, while the lower mode was not detected at increasing range.

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Retha Matthee Mecikalski
,
Anthony L. Bain
, and
Lawrence D. Carey

Abstract

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) experiment seeks to understand the kinematic and microphysical controls on the lightning behavior of deep moist convection. This study utilized multiple dual-polarization Doppler radars across northern Alabama to quantify microphysical and kinematic properties and processes that often serve as precursors to lightning, such as the graupel echo volume, graupel mass, and convective updraft volume. The focus here was on one multicellular complex that occurred on 21 May 2012 in northern Alabama during DC3. The graupel echo volume and the graupel mass in the charging region correlated well with the total lightning flash rate (FR), and even better than the updraft volumes and maximum updraft velocities. The flash length scales (LS) and flash areas were generally anticorrelated to the FR, while it was correlated to the nonprecipitation ice volume. More specifically, the presence of smaller flashes was associated with a stronger lower positive charge region caused by larger graupel volumes, stronger updraft volumes, and stronger maximum updraft velocities while larger flashes occurred during lower FRs and were associated with a weakened lower positive charge region in combination with a stronger upper positive charge region, weaker updraft velocities, a smaller graupel volume and mass, and an increase in nonprecipitation ice volume.

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Lawrence D. Carey
,
Walter A. Petersen
, and
Steven A. Rutledge

Abstract

On 30 May 1998, a tornado devastated the town of Spencer, South Dakota. The Spencer tornado (rated F4 on the Fujita tornado intensity scale) was the third and most intense of five tornadoes produced by a single supercell storm during an approximate 1-h period. The supercell produced over 76% positive cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning and a peak positive CG flash rate of 18 flashes min−1 (5-min average) during a 2-h period surrounding the tornado damage. Earlier studies have reported anomalous positive CG lightning activity in some supercell storms producing violent tornadoes. However, what makes the CG lightning activity in this tornadic storm unique is the magnitude and timing of the positive ground flashes relative to the F4 tornado. In previous studies, supercells dominated by positive CG lightning produced their most violent tornado after they attained their maximum positive ground flash rate, whenever the rate exceeded 1.5 flashes min−1. Further, tornadogenesis often occurred during a lull in CG lightning activity and sometimes during a reversal from positive to negative polarity. Contrary to these findings, the positive CG lightning flash rate and percentage of positive CG lightning in the Spencer supercell increased dramatically while the storm was producing F4 damage on Spencer.

These results have important implications for the use of CG lightning in the nowcasting of tornadoes and for the understanding of cloud electrification in these unique storms. In order to further explore these issues, the authors present detailed analyses of storm evolution and structure using Sioux Falls, South Dakota, (KFSD) Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity and National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) CG lightning data. The analyses suggest that a merger between the Spencer supercell and a squall line on its rear flank may have provided the impetus for both the F4 tornadic damage and the dramatic increase in positive CG lightning during the tornado, possibly explaining the difference in timing compared to past studies.

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Lawrence D. Carey
,
Steven A. Rutledge
, and
Walter A. Petersen

Abstract

The majority (61%) of severe storm reports (i.e., large hail and tornado) during the 1989–98 warm seasons (April–September) were associated with predominantly (>90%) negative cloud-to-ground (PNCG) lightning. Across the contiguous United States, only 15% of severe storm reports were characterized by predominantly (>50%) positive CG (PPCG) lightning activity. However, significant regional variability occurred in the relationship between warm season severe storm reports and CG lightning polarity. In the eastern United States, a significant fraction (81%) of severe storm reports occurred nearby PNCG lightning while only 2% of severe storms were associated with PPCG lightning. The CG lightning behavior was quite different over the northern plains; only 28% of severe storm reports were linked with PNCG lightning while 43% were characterized by PPCG lightning. Although the direct physical relationship is still not evident, this regional variability appears to be at least partially explained by differences in the meteorological environment of severe storms producing PPCG and PNCG lightning.

The locations of the monthly frequency maxima of severe storms that produced PPCG and PNCG lightning were systematically offset with respect to the climatological monthly position of the surface θ e ridge on severe outbreak days. Severe storms that produced PPCG lightning generally occurred west and northwest of the θ e ridge in the upstream θ e gradient region. Severe storms generating PNCG lightning were located southeast of the PPCG lightning maxima, closer to the axis of the θ e ridge in higher mean values of θ e .

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John R. Mecikalski
,
Xuanli Li
,
Lawrence D. Carey
,
Eugene W. McCaul Jr.
, and
Timothy A. Coleman

Abstract

Lightning initiation (LI) events over Florida and Oklahoma are examined and statistically compared to understand the behavior of observed radar and infrared satellite interest fields (IFs) in the 75-min time frame surrounding LI. Lightning initiation is defined as the time of the first lightning, of any kind, generated in a cumulonimbus cloud. Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) infrared IFs, contoured frequency by altitude diagrams (CFADs) of radar reflectivity, and model sounding data, analyzed in concert, show the mean characteristics over time for 36 and 23 LI events over Florida and Oklahoma, respectively. CFADs indicate that radar echoes formed 60 min before Florida LI, yet Oklahoma storms exhibited a ~30-min delayed development. Large ice volumes in Florida developed from the freezing of lofted liquid hydrometeors formed by long-lived (~45 min) warm rain processes, which are mostly absent in Oklahoma. However, ice volumes developed abruptly in Oklahoma storms despite missing a significant warm rain component. GOES fields were significantly different before 30 min prior to LI between the two locations. Compared to Florida storms, lower precipitable water (PW), higher convective available potential energy, and higher 3.9-μm reflectance in Oklahoma, suggest stronger and drier updrafts producing a greater abundance of small ice particles. Somewhat larger 15-min 10.7-μm cooling rates in Oklahoma confirm stronger updrafts, while clouds in the 60–30-min pre-LI period show more IF variability (e.g., in the 6.5–10.7-μm difference). Florida storms (high PW, slower growth) offer more lead time for LI predictability, compared to Oklahoma storms (low PW, explosive growth), with defined anvils being obvious at the time of LI.

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Retha Matthee
,
John R. Mecikalski
,
Lawrence D. Carey
, and
Phillip M. Bitzer

Abstract

To increase understanding of the relationships between lightning and nonlightning convective storms, lightning observations from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (NAMMA) campaign were analyzed with Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) geostationary satellite and S-band NASA Polarimetric Doppler Weather Radar (NPOL) data. The study’s goal was to analyze the time evolution of infrared satellite fields and ground-based polarimetric radar during NAMMA to quantify relationships between satellite and radar observations for lightning and nonlightning convective clouds over equatorial Africa. Using NPOL data, very low-frequency arrival time difference lightning data, and MSG Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager observations, the physical attributes of growing cumulus clouds, including ice mass production, updraft strength, cloud depth, and cloud-top glaciation were examined. It was found that, on average, the lightning storms had stronger updrafts (seen in the satellite and radar fields), which lead to the formation of deeper clouds (seen in the satellite and radar fields) and subsequently much more ice in the mixed-phase region (as confirmed in radar observations), as well as much more nonprecipitating ice in the top 1 km of the cloud (as quantified in both satellite and radar fields) than the nonlightning storms. Computed radar-derived ice masses in cumulus clouds verifies the traditional MSG indicators of cloud-top glaciation, while NPOL verifies internal structures (i.e., large amounts of graupel) where satellite and radar show strong updrafts.

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