Enhancement of cloud-to-ground lightning over Houston, Texas
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Cloud-to-ground lightning flash data have been analyzed for the twelve-year period 1989-2000, for a geographical area centered on Houston, Texas. Of the 1.6 million cloud-to-ground flashes in this area of study, approximately 752,000 flashes occurred in the summer months of June, July, and August, and 119,000 flashes in the months of December, January, and February. The highest flash densities, greater than 4 flashes km-2 in the summer and 0.7 flashes/km-2 in the winter, are near the urban areas of Houston. We suggest that the elevated flash densities could result from several factors, including, 1) the convergence due to the urban heat island effect, and 2) the increasing levels of air pollution from anthropogenic sources producing numerous small 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.
author list (cited authors)
Orville, R. E., Huffines, G., Nielsen-Gammon, J., Zhang, R., Ely, B., Steiger, S., ... Read, W.