In this study we explored the environmental conditions hypothesized to induce a dominant charge structure in thunderstorms in the province of Cordoba, Argentina, during the RELAMPAGO‐CACTI (Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations‐Clouds, Aerosols, Complex Terrain Interactions) field campaigns. Hypothesized environmental conditions are thought to be related to small warm cloud residence time and warm rain growth suppression, which lead to high cloud liquid water contents in the mixed‐phase zone, contributing to positive charging of graupel and anomalous charge structure storms. Data from radiosondes, a cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) ground‐based instrument and reanalysis were used to characterize the proximity inflow air of storms with anomalous and normal charge structures. Consistent with the initial hypothesis, anomalous storms had small warm cloud depth caused by dry low‐level humidity and low 0°C height. Anomalous storms were associated with lower CCN concentrations than normal storms, an opposite result to the initial expectation. High CAPE is not an important condition for the development of anomalous storms in Argentina, as no clear pattern could be found among the different parameters calculated for updraft proxy that would be consistent with the initial hypothesis.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Earth and Space Science
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Some thunderstorms in Cordoba, Argentina, present a charge structure with an enhanced low-level positive charge layer, and practically nonexistent upper-level positive charge. Storms with these characteristics are uncommon in the United States, even when considering regions with a high frequency of anomalous charge structure storms such as Colorado. In this study, we explored the microphysical and kinematic conditions inferred by radar that led to storms with this unique low-level anomalous charge structure in Argentina, and compared them to conditions conducive for anomalous and normal charge structures. As high liquid water contents in the mixed-phase layer lead to positive charging of graupel and anomalous storms through the non-inductive charging mechanism, we explored radar parameters hypothesized to be associated with large cloud supercooled liquid water contents in the mixed-phase layer and anomalous storms, such as mass and volume of hail and high-density graupel, large reflectivity associated with the growth of rimed precipitation to hail size, and parameters that are proxies for strong updrafts such as echo-top and Zdr column heights. We found that anomalous storms had higher values of mass and volume of hail in multiple sub-layers of the mixed-phase zone and higher frequency of high reflectivity values. Low-level anomalous events had higher hail mass in the lower portion of the mixed-phase zone when compared to normal events. Weaker updraft proxies were found for low-level anomalous events due to the shallow nature of these events while there was no distinction between the updraft proxies of normal and anomalous storms.more » « less
A new automated method to retrieve charge layer polarity from flashes, named Chargepol, is presented in this paper. Using data from the NASA Lightning Mapping Array (LMA) deployed during the Remote sensing of Electrification, Lightning, And Mesoscale/microscale Processes with Adaptive Ground Observations (RELAMPAGO) field campaign in Cordoba, Argentina, from November 2018 to April 2019, this method estimates the polarity of vertical charge distributions and their altitudes and thicknesses (or vertical depth) using the very‐high frequency (VHF) source emissions detected by LMAs. When this method is applied to LMA data for extended periods of time, it is capable of inferring a storm's bulk electrical charge structure throughout its life cycle. This method reliably predicted the polarity of charge within which lightning flashes propagated and was validated in comparison to methods that require manual assignment of polarities via visual inspection of VHF lightning sources. Examples of normal and anomalous charge structures retrieved using Chargepol for storms in Central Argentina during RELAMPAGO are presented for the first time. Application of Chargepol to five months of LMA data in Central Argentina and several locations in the United States allowed for the characterization of the charge structure in these regions and for a reliable comparison using the same methodology. About 13.3% of Cordoba thunderstorms were defined by an anomalous charge structure, slightly higher than in Oklahoma (12.5%) and West Texas (11.1%), higher than Alabama (7.3%), and considerably lower than in Colorado (82.6%). Some of the Cordoba anomalous thunderstorms presented enhanced low‐level positive charge, a feature rarely if ever observed in Colorado thunderstorms.
We gridded 11 years of cloud‐to‐ground (CG) flashes detected by the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network during the warm season in 15 km × 15 km × 15 min grid cells to identify storms with substantial CG flash rates clearly dominated by flashes lowering one polarity of charge to the ground or the other (+CG flashes vs. −CG flashes). Previous studies in the central United States had found that the gross charge distribution of storms dominated by +CG flashes included a large upper negative charge over a large middle level positive charge, a reversal of the usual polarities. In each of seven regions spanning the contiguous United States (CONUS), we compared 17 environmental parameters of storms dominated by +CG flashes with those of storms dominated by –CG flashes. These parameters were chosen based on their expected roles in modulating supercooled liquid water content (SLWC) in the updraft because laboratory experiments have shown that SLWC affects the polarity of charge exchanged during rebounding collisions between riming graupel and small ice particles in the mixed phase region. This, in turn, would affect the vertical polarity of a storm's charge distribution and the dominant polarity of CG flashes. Our results suggest that the combination of parameters conducive to dominant +CG flash activity and, by inference, to anomalous storm charge structure varies widely from region to region, the lack of a favorable value of any particular parameter in a given region being offset by favorable values of one or more other parameters.
In Part I, an electrification scheme was described and a simulation of an observed cold-based storm from the U.S. Great Plains was validated with electrical observations. Most charge in the storm was separated by rebounding collisions of secondary ice originating from prior graupel–snow collisions. In this Part II, sensitivity tests are performed with the control simulation (Part I) and influences from environmental factors (aerosols, temperature, moisture, and shear) on lightning are elucidated. Environmental factors [e.g., convective available potential energy (CAPE)] controlling updraft speed are salient. When ascent is reduced by 30% and 70%, flashes become 70% fewer and disappear, respectively; faster ascent promotes positive cloud-to-ground (+CGs) flashes. Since cloud base is too cold (1°C) for coalescence, cloud condensation nucleus aerosol concentrations do not influence the lightning appreciably. The electrical response to varying concentrations of active ice nuclei is limited by most ice particles being secondary and less sensitive—a natural “buffer.” Imposing a maritime sounding suggests that the land–sea contrast in lightning for such storms is due to the vertical structure of environmental temperature and humidity. Weak CAPE, and both entrainment and condensate weight from a low cloud base, suppress ascent and charging. Maritime thermodynamic conditions reduce simulated flash rates by two orders of magnitude. Reducing aerosol loadings from continental to maritime only slightly reinforces this suppression. Last, a conceptual model is provided for how any simulated storm is either normal because graupel/hail is mostly positively charged or else is inverted/anomalous because graupel/hail is mostly negatively charged, with environmental factors controlling the charging. Impacts from microphysical processes, including three processes of secondary ice production, on lightning are analyzed.
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