1 Colorado's Thunderstorm Climatology

Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Virtual Meeting Room
Stephen J. Hodanish, NOAA/NWS, Pueblo, CO; and B. Vogt

Handout (2.9 MB)

Terrain dominates lightning patterns across mountainous landscapes. Colorado’s complex configuration of mostly north-south mountain ranges, vast sloping surfaces, high mountain-bound basins, and east-west ridges running across the state's eastern plains create a complex thunderstorm climatology. Time-series animations, maps, histograms, and statistical analyses reveal the lightning climatology of the state in space and time and identify specific topographic influences of lighting activity. Major finding are 1) topography’s role in a rapid surge in lightning density, which peaks in the highest mountain summits, 2) the Denver convergence/vorticity zone regional circulation’s influence of lightning distribution across the northeastern Colorado region, 3) the North American monsoon increases lightning over the entire state, focusing along the southern exposures of the San Juan Mountains, and 4) the highest concentrations of lightning occur where moisture, lift, and instability are maximized.
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