Airborne quantification of upper tropospheric NOx production from lightning in deep convective storms over the United States Great Plains

I. B. Pollack, C. R. Homeyer, T. B. Ryerson, K. C. Aikin, J. Peischl, E. C. Apel, T. Campos, F. Flocke, R. S. Hornbrook, D. J. Knapp, D. D. Montzka, A. J. Weinheimer, D. Riemer, G. Diskin, G. Sachse, T. Mikoviny, A. Wisthaler, E. Bruning, D. MacGorman, K. A. CummingsK. E. Pickering, H. Huntrieser, M. Lichtenstern, H. Schlager, M. C. Barth

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25 Scopus citations


The reported range for global production of nitrogen oxides (NOx =NO+NO2) by lightning remains large (e.g., 32 to 664 mol NOx flash-1), despite incorporating results from over 30 individual laboratory, theoretical, and field studies since the 1970s. Airborne and ground-based observations from the Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry experiment in May and June 2012 provide a new data set for calculating moles of NOx produced per lightning flash, P(NOx), in thunderstorms over the United States Great Plains. This analysis utilizes a combination of in situ observations of storm inflow and outflow from three instrumented aircraft, three-dimensional spatial information from ground-based radars and satellite observations, and spatial and temporal information for intracloud and cloud-to-ground lightning flashes from ground-based lightning mapping arrays. Evaluation of two analysis methods (e.g., a volume-based approach and a flux-based approach) for converting enhancements in lightning-produced NOx from volume-based mixing ratios to moles NOx flash-1 suggests that both methods equally approximate P(NOx) for storms with elongated anvils, while the volume-based approach better approximates P(NOx) for storms with circular-shaped anvils. Results from the more robust volume-based approach for three storms sampled over Oklahoma and Colorado during DC3 suggest a range of 142 to 291 (average of 194) moles NOx flash1 (or 117–332 mol NOx flash-1 including uncertainties). Although not vastly different from the previously reported range for storms occurring in the Great Plains (e.g., 21–465 mol NOx flash-1), results from this analysis of DC3 storms offer more constrained upper and lower limits for P(NOx) in this geographical region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2002-2028
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 27 2016


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