85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 3:45 PM
The Houston Environmental Aerosol Thunderstorm (HEAT) Project 2005
Richard E. Orville, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; and L. Carey, J. Nielsen-Gammon, D. Collins, R. Zhang, A. Stuart, B. Ely, S. Steiger, and J. Smith
A major field program will occur in summer 2005 to determine the sources and causes for the enhanced cloud-to-ground lightning over Houston, Texas. This program will be in association with simultaneous experiments supported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), formally the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC). Recent studies covering the period 1989-2002 document a 60% increase of cloud-to-ground lightning in the Houston area as compared to surrounding background values, which is second in flash density only to the Tampa Bay, Florida area. We suggest that the elevated flash densities could result from several factors, including 1) the convergence due to the urban heat island effect and complex sea breeze, and 2) the increasing levels of air pollution from anthropogenic sources producing numerous small cloud droplets and thereby suppressing mean droplet size. The latter effect would enable more cloud water to reach the mixed phase region where it is involved in the formation of precipitation and the separation of electric charge, leading to an enhancement of lightning. The primary goals of HEAT are to examine the effects of (1) pollution, (2) the urban heat island, and (3) the complex coastline on storms and lightning characteristics in the Houston area. The transport of air pollutants by Houston thunderstorms will be investigated. In particular, the relative amounts of lightning-produced and convectively transported NOx into the upper troposphere will be determined, and a comparison of the different NOx sources in the urban area of Houston will be developed. The HEAT project is based on the observation that there is an enhancement in cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning. Total lightning (intracloud (IC) and CG) will be measured using a lightning mapping system (LDAR II) to observe if there is an enhancement in intracloud lightning as well.

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