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Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch

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CONUS CG Lightning


Bard Zajac

Steve Rutledge



Archived Training





with contributions from Anthony Mostek, Dan Bikos and Brian Motta


CONUS CG Lightning examines lightning detection and lightning climatologies in the contiguous United States (CONUS). The broad objective of this teletraining course is to relate the climatology of cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning to forecaster knowledge of convection and thunderstorms.

Specific course objectives are:

  • to describe the National Lightning Detection Network and its operation and performance
  • to provide a comprehensive list of national and regional climatologies
  • to examine the distributions of CG lightning over the CONUS and over the County Warning Areas (CWAs) of the participating NWS offices
  • to relate these distributions to forecaster knowledge of convection and thunderstorms

Training Session Options

VISITview playback without Audio – You may step through the VISITview file on your own to view the presentation. If talking points are available, you may use these in tandem with going through the slides.

Create a directory to download the playback file from the following site:

After extracting the files into that directory click on the visitlocal.bat file to start the lesson. Advance slides on your own using the navigation controls (i.e., the Next button will advance to the next slide)

References/Additional Links

This section contains

  1. the main reference for this teletraining course,
  2. the main reference for the National Lightning Detection Network,
  3. a comprehensive listing of national and regional lightning climatologies.

This teletraining course is based on the following article:

The National Lightning Detection Network is described in:

  • Cummins, K. L., M. J. Murphy, E. A. Bardo, W. L. Hiscox, R. B. Pyle, and A. E. Pifer, 1998: A combined TOA/MDF technology upgrade of the U.S. national lightning detection network. J. Geophys. Res., 103, 9035-9044.

Published national studies of lightning climatology include:

  • Orville, R. E., 1991: Lightning ground flash density in the contiguous United States – 1989. Mon. Wea. Rev., 119, 573-577.
  • Orville, R. E., 1994: Cloud-to-ground lightning flash characteristics in the contiguous United States: 1989-1991. J. Geophys. Res., 99, 10,833-10,841.
  • Orville, R. E., and A. C. Silver, 1997: Lightning ground flash density in the contiguous United States: 1992-95. Mon. Wea. Rev., 125, 631-638.
  • Orville, R. E., and G. R. Huffines, 1999: Lightning ground flash measurements over the contiguous United States: 1995-97. Mon. Wea. Rev., 127, 2693-2703.
  • Zajac, B. A,, and S. A. Rutledge, 2001: Cloud-to-ground lightning activity in the contiguous United States from 1995-1999. Mon. Wea. Rev., 129, 999-1019.
  • Orville, R. E. and G. R. Huffines, 2001: Cloud-to-ground lightning in the United States: NLDN results in the first decade 1989-1998. Mon. Wea. Rev., 129, 1179-1193.

Published regional studies of lightning climatology include:

  • Maier, L. M., E. P. Krider, and M. W. Maier, 1984: Average diurnal variation of summer lightning over the Florida peninsula. Mon. Wea. Rev., 112, 1134-1140.
  • Reap, R. M., 1986: Evaluation of cloud-to-ground lightning data from the western United States for the 1983-84 summer seasons. J. Climate Appl. Meteor., 25, 785-799.
  • Lopez, R. E., and R. L. Holle, 1986: Diurnal and spatial variability of lightning activity in northeastern Colorado and central Florida during the summer. Mon. Wea. Rev., 114, 1288-1312.
  • Orville, R. E., R. A. Weisman, R. B. Pyle, R. W. Henderson, and R. E. Orville, Jr., 1987: Cloud-to-ground lightning flash characteristics from June 1984 through May 1985. J. Geophys. Res., 92, 5640-5644.
  • Reap, R. M., and D. R. MacGorman, 1989: Cloud-to-ground lightning: climatological characteristics and relationships to model fields, radar observations, and severe local storms. Mon. Wea. Rev., 117, 518-535.
  • Orville, R. E., 1990: Winter lightning along the East Coast. Geophys. Res. Lett., 17, 713-715.
  • Biswas, K. R., and P. V. Hobbs, 1990: Lightning over the Gulf Stream. Geophys. Res. Lett., 17, 941-944.
  • King, T. S., and R. C. Balling, Jr., 1994: Diurnal variations in Arizona monsoon lightning data. Mon. Wea. Rev., 122, 1659-1664.
  • Watson, A. I., R. E. Lopez, and R. L. Holle, 1994: Diurnal cloud-to-ground lightning patterns in Arizona during the Southwest monsoon. Mon. Wea. Rev., 122, 1716-1725.
  • Watson, A. I., R. E. Lopez, and R. L. Holle, 1994: Cloud-to-ground lightning and upper-air patterns during bursts and breaks in the southwest monsoon. Mon. Wea. Rev., 122, 1726-1739.
  • Reap, R. M., 1994: Analysis and prediction of lightning strike distribution associated with synoptic map types over Florida. Mon. Wea. Rev., 122, 1698-1715.
  • Fosdick, E. K., and A. I. Watson, 1995: Cloud-to-ground lightning patterns in New Mexico during the summer. National Weather Digest, 19, 17-24.
  • Clodman, S., and W. Chisholm, 1996: Lightning flash climatology in the southern Great Lakes region. Atmosphere-Ocean, 32, 345-377.
  • Watson, A. I., and R. L. Holle, 1996: An eight-year lightning climatology of the southeast United States prepared for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77, 883-890.
  • Livingston, E. S, J.W. Nielson-Gammon, and R. E. Orville, 1996: A climatology, synoptic assessment, and thermodynamic evaluation for cloud-to-ground lightning in Georgia: A study for the 1996 Summer Olympics. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77, 1483-1495.
  • Lopez, R. E., R. L. Holle, and A. I. Watson, 1997: Spatial and temporal distributions of lightning over Arizona from a power utility perspective. J. Appl. Met., 36, 825-831.
  • Hodanish, S., D. Sharp, W. Collins, C. Paxton, and R. E. Orville, 1997: A 10-yr monthly lightning climatology of Florida: 1986-95. Wea. Forecasting, 12, 439-448.
  • Camp, J. P., A. I. Watson, and H. E. Fuelberg, 1998: The diurnal distribution of lightning over north Florida and its relation to the prevailing low-level flow. Wea. Forecasting, 13, 729-739.
  • Lericos, T. P., H. E. Fuelberg, A. I. Watson, and R. L. Holle, 2002: Warm season ligthning distributions over the Florida peninsula as related to synoptic patterns. Wea. Forecasting, 17, 83-98.
This course is Basic

There are no prerequisites


Dan Bikos (970) 491-3777