11th Conference on Atmospheric Radiation and the 11th Conference on Cloud Physics

Friday, 7 June 2002: 4:45 PM
Determination of thundercloud ice characteristics from satellite observations of lightning
John Latham, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and H. Christian, A. M. Blyth, and A. M. Gadian
The continuous satisfactory functioning of satellite-borne NASA/MSFC devices for the detection of global lightning (the OTD and the LIS) offers the opportunity to explore relationships between lightning frequency f and other thundercloud parameters.

Simple calculations predict that the lightning frequency f is proportional to the product of the downward flux of solid precipitation through the body of the thundercloud and the upward flux of ice crystals into its anvil. This prediction is reinforced by more elaborate computations performed using the multiple lightning model of Baker et al (1995, 1999).

An examination of data from the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) and the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI) suggests that thunderstorms with the highest frequency of total lightning also possess the most pronounced microwave scattering signatures at 37 and 85 GHz. A total of 292 individual thunderstorms were examined, and a log-linear relationship was shown to exist (one for each frequency) between the number of optical lightning pulses produced by each storm and the corresponding microwave brightness temperatures. These relationships are consistent throughout the seasons in a wide variety of regimes , suggesting that global relationships exist between lightning activity and cloud ice content.

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