Lightning activity in a hail-producing storm observed with phased-array radar

C. Emersic, P. L. Heinselman, D. R. MacGorman, E. C. Bruning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


This study examined lightning activity relative to the rapidly evolving kinematics of a hail-producing storm on 15 August 2006. Data were provided by the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased-Array Radar, the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array, and the National Lightning Detection Network. This analysis is the first to compare the electrical characteristics of a hail-producing storm with the reflectivity and radial velocity structure at temporal resolutions of less than 1 min. Total flash rates increased to approximately 220 min-1 as the storm's updraft first intensified, leveled off during its first mature stage, and then decreased for 2-3 min despite the simultaneous development of another updraft surge. This reduction in flash rate occurred as wet hail formed in the new updraft and was likely related to the wet growth; wet growth is not conducive to hydrometeor charging and probably contributed to the formation of a "lightning hole" without a mesocyclone. Total flash rates subsequently increased to approximately 450 min-1 as storm volume and inferred graupel volume increased, and then decreased as the storm dissipated. The vertical charge structure in the storm initially formed a positive tripole (midlevel negative charge between upper and lower positive charges). The charge structure in the second updraft surge consisted of a negative charge above a deep midlevel positive charge, a reversal consistent with the effects of large liquid water contents on hydrometeor charge polarity in laboratory experiments. Prior to the second updraft surge, the storm produced two cloud-to-ground flashes, both lowering the usual negative charge to ground. Shortly before hail likely reached ground, the storm produced four cloud-to-ground flashes, all lowering the positive charge. Episodes of high singlet VHF sources were observed at approximately 13-15 km during the initial formation and later intensification of the storm's updraft.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1809-1825
Number of pages17
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Atmospheric electricity
  • Convective storms
  • Hail
  • Lightning
  • Radars/Radar observations


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