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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 14, issue 10 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 14, 2715-2726, 2014
© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 08 Oct 2014

Research article | 08 Oct 2014

Global patterns of lightning properties derived by OTD and LIS

S. Beirle1, W. Koshak2, R. Blakeslee2, and T. Wagner1 S. Beirle et al.
  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie, Mainz, Germany
  • 2NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, USA

Abstract. The satellite instruments Optical Transient Detector (OTD) and Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) provide unique empirical data about the frequency of lightning flashes around the globe (OTD), and the tropics (LIS), which have been used before to compile a well-received global climatology of flash rate densities.

Here we present a statistical analysis of various additional lightning properties derived from OTD / LIS, i.e., the number of so-called "events" and "groups" per flash, as well as the mean flash duration, footprint and radiance. These normalized quantities, which can be associated with the flash "strength", show consistent spatial patterns; most strikingly, oceanic flashes show higher values than continental flashes for all properties. Over land, regions with high (eastern US) and low (India) flash strength can be clearly identified. We discuss possible causes for and implications of the observed regional differences. Although a direct quantitative interpretation of the investigated flash properties is difficult, the observed spatial patterns provide valuable information for the interpretation and application of climatological flash rates. Due to the systematic regional variations of physical flash characteristics, viewing conditions, and/or measurement sensitivities, parametrizations of lightning NOx based on total flash rate densities alone are probably affected by regional biases.

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