7A.5 Total lightning activity during the re-intensification of Tropical Storm Erin over Oklahoma on 18-19 August 2007

Tuesday, 28 October 2008: 11:45 AM
North & Center Ballroom (Hilton DeSoto)
Donald R. MacGorman, NOAA/NSSL, Norman, OK; and T. J. Schuur and M. R. Kumjian

The remnants of Tropical Storm Erin made landfall on the Texas coast on 16 August 2007 and reached Oklahoma on 18 August, where it produced tornadoes, severe straight-line winds, and flooding. In west-central Oklahoma (roughly 800 km from the coast), the system re-intensified and formed an eye and rainband structure characteristic of tropical cyclones. The Oklahoma Mesonet indicated that the system eventually produced greater sustained winds (26 m s-1, 58 mph) and a lower central pressure (1001.3 hPa) than it had produced over open water.

The eye, which fluctuated from 5 to 25 km in diameter, was first apparent on lightning and radar displays at 4:50 am local time and began dissipating over Oklahoma City at 9:50 am. Throughout the period during which the eye formed and dissipated, the eye and the majority of the area of rainbands were well within the region in which the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array maps lightning in three dimensions and in which the KOUN S-Band radar provides polarimetric data. Both radar displays and displays of lightning density delineated the formation of the eye and rainband well. Convection extended highest and lightning rates were greatest in the rainband on the southeast flank. The height of convection in the rainband decreased as one approached the eye, and the decrease in height extended around the eye as the eye formed. Some long, horizontal flashes extended eastward from storms along the east side of the eye into the region of widespread light precipitation east of the rainband. The appearance of these long horizontal flashes was similar to the lightning structure observed in the stratiform precipitation regions of mesoscale convective systems. As the cyclone structure weakened, convection on the west side of the eye dissipated, and the remnants of the rainband on the east side propagated eastward as a line of storms.

Though the lightning in this system was probably influenced by being over land, this case still may provide clues to what happens electrically in tropical cyclones over open water, where continuous observations of total lightning activity during tropical cyclone intensification and dissipation are not yet available.

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