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Lightning Meteorology 1: Electrification and Lightning Activity in Typical Thunderstorms


Bard Zajac

John Weaver

Dan Lindsey



Archived Training





Last Updated:


Contributors: Tony Mostek, Dan Bikos, Brian Motta, Walt Petersen, Fred Mosher, Sam Beckman, and the staff from NSSL.


Lightning Meteorology I examines electrification and cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning activity in typical warm season thunderstorms, both isolated storms and mesoscale convective systems. The broad objective of this teletraining course is to utilize CG lightning data in nowcasting / forecasting these storms.

Specific course objectives are:

  • to gain a basic understanding of the ice-ice collisional charging mechanism
  • to know the gross distributions of electrical charge in thunderstorms
  • to understand how charge distributions control the production of negative and positive CG strikes (-CGs and +CGs
  • to identify minimum thresholds in radar reflectivity and satellite cloud top temperature associated with CG lightning
  • to use -CGs and +CGs to monitor storm lifecycle and convective and stratiform precipitation
  • to integrate lightning data with sounding, satellite and radar data

Training Session Options

NOAA/NWS students – to begin the training, use the web-based video, YouTube video, or audio playback options below (if present for this session). Certificates of completion for NOAA/NWS employees can be obtained by accessing the session via the Commerce Learn Center

  1. Audio playback (recommended for low-bandwidth users) – This is an audio playback version in the form of a downloadable VISITview and can be taken at anytime.

    Create a directory to download the audio playback file (30 MB) from the following link:

    After extracting the files into that directory click on either the visitplay.bat or visitauto.bat file to start the lesson. If both files are present, use visitauto.bat

  2. YouTube video:

References/Additional Links

  • Talking points are available for this lesson and may be printed out to easily review the session in detail at any time.
  • Byers, H. R., and R. R. Braham, Jr., 1949: The thunderstorm. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 287 pp.
  • Dye, J. E., J. J. Jones, W. P. Winn, T. A. Cerni, B. Gardiner, D. Lamb, R. L. Ritter, J. Hallett, and C. P. F. Saunders, 1986: Early electrification and precipitation development in a small isolated Montata cumumlonimbus. J. Geophysical Research, 91, 1231-1247.
  • Houze, R. A., Jr., S. A. Rutledge, M. I. Biggerstaff, and B. F. Smull, 1989: Interpretation of Doppler-weather radar displays of midlatitude mesoscale convective systems. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 70, 608-619.
  • Lopez, R. E., W. D. Otto, R. Ortiz, and R. L. Holle, 1990: The lightning activity of convective cloud systems in northeastern Colorado. Preprints, 18th Conference on Interactive Information and Processing Systems for Meteorology, Oceanography and Hydrology, Orlando, FL, AMS, 727-731.
  • McDonald, J. E., 1958: The physics of cloud modification. Advanced in Geophysics, Academic Press, 5, 233-303.
  • Petersen, W. A., L. D. Carey, S. A. Rutledge, J. C. Knievel, N. J. Doesken, R. H. Johnson, T. B. McKee, T. Vonder Haar, and J. F. Weaver, 1999: Mesoscale and radar observations of the Fort Collins Flash Flood of 28 July 1997, Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 80, 191-216.
  • Rodgers, R. R., and M. K. Yau, 1989: A short course in cloud physics. Pergamon, 293 pp.
  • Rutledge, S. A., and D. R. MacGorman, 1998: Cloud-to-ground lightning activity in the 10-11 June 1985 mesoscale convective system observed during the Oklahoma-Kansas PRE-STORM Project. Mon. Wea. Rev., 116, 1396-1408.
  • Saunders, C. P. R., 1993: A review of thunderstorm electrification processes. J. Appl. Meteor., 32, 642-655.
  • Wallace, J. M., and P. V. Hobbs, 1977: Atmospheric science: An introductory survey. Academic Press, 467 pp.
  • Zajac, B. A., and J. F. Weaver, 2002: An introductory course on forecasting with lightning data. Preprints, Symposium on the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS), Orlando, FL, AMS.
This course is Basic

There are no prerequisites


Dan Bikos

Page Contact

Bernie Connell


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