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Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch

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Lightning Meteorology 2: Anomalous Storms and Advanced Theory


Bard Zajac

John Weaver

Dan Lindsey



Archived Training





Last Updated:


Contributors: Dan Bikos, Dolores Kiessling, Tim Alberta, Liz Page, Larry Carey, Brian Peters, Dick Orville


Lightning Meteorology 2 examines electrification and cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning activity in atypical thunderstorms. Atypical storms include winter storms and many severe storms. The broad objective of this teletraining course is to utilize CG lightning data in nowcasting / forecasting these storms.

Specific course objectives are:

  • to review and be familiar with Lightning Meteorology I, the introductory course that examines typical warm season isolated storms and mesoscale convective systems.
  • to define the two main CG lightning parameters: CG flash rate and the percentage of +CGs (or percent +CGs)
  • to understand how CG flash rate and percent +CGs are affected by various configurations of electrical charge
  • to define the terms, negative strike dominated (NSD) and positive strike dominated (PSD)
  • to identify differences between warm season and cold seaon lightning and the seasonal factors that are responsible
  • to know where severe NSD storms and severe PSD storms tend to occur in the contiguous United States
  • to see why severe NSD storms often exhibit usually high and variable CG flash rates
  • to be familiar with severe PSD storms and the hypotheses used to explain these anomalous storms

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 (38 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.
  • NWS regional lightning ground maps (replaces the old link found at the end of the training session)
  • Avila, E. E., R. G. Pereyra, G. G. Aguirre Varela, and G. M. Caranti, 1999: The effect of the cloud-droplet spectrum on electrical-charge transfer during individual ice-ice collisions. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc., 125, 1669-1679.
  • Byers, H. R., and R. R. Braham, Jr., 1949: The thunderstorm. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, 287 pp.
  • Carey, L. D., S. A. Rutledge, and W. A. Petersen, 2002: The relationship between severe storm reports and cloud-to-ground lightning polarity in the contiguous United States from 1989-98. Mon. Wea. Rev., submitted.
  • 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.
  • Foote, G. B., and H. W. Frank, 1983: Case study of a hailstorm in Colorado. Part III: Airflow from triple Doppler measurements. J. Atmos. Sci., 40, 686-707.
  • 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.
  • Kane, R. J., 1991: Correlating lightning to severe local storms in the northeastern United States. Wea. Forecasting, 6, 3-12.
  • 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.
  • MacGorman, D. R., D. W. Burgess, V. Mazur, W. D. Rust, W. L. Taylor, and B. C. Johnson, 1989: Lightning rates relative to tornadic storm evolution on 22 May 1981. J. Atmos. Sci., 46, 221-250.
  • MacGorman, D. R., and D. W. Burgess, 1994: Positive cloud-to-ground lightning in tornadic storms and hailstorms. Mon. Wea. Rev., 122, 1671-1697.
  • McDonald, J. E., 1958: The physics of cloud modification. Advanced in Geophysics, Academic Press, 5, 233-303.
  • Perez, A. H., L. J. Wicker, and R. E. Orville, 1997: Characteristics of cloud-to-ground lightning associated with violent tornadoes. Wea. Forecasting, 12, 428-437.
  • 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.
  • Smith, S. B., J. G. LaDue, and D. R. MacGorman, 2000: The relationship between cloud-to-ground lightning polarity and surface equivalent potential temperature during three tornadic outbreaks. Mon. Wea. Rev., 128, 3320-3328.
  • Takahashi, T., 1978: Riming electrification as a charge generation mechanism in thunderstorms. J. Atmos. Sci., 35, 1536-1548.
  • Wallace, J. M., and P. V. Hobbs, 1977: Atmospheric science: An introductory survey. Academic Press, 467 pp.
  • Williams, E. R., 2001: The electrification of severe storms. Severe Convective Storms, AMS Meteor. Monogr. Series, 27, 570 pp.
  • Zajac, B. A., and S. A. Rutledge, 2001 Cloud-to-ground lightning activity in the contiguous United States from 1995 to 1999. Mon. Wea. Rev., 129, 999-1019.
  • 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 Advanced

Lightning Meteorology 1 is a prerequisite. Several concepts from Lightning Meteorology 1 are examined in greater detail with little to no review.


Dan Bikos

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Bernie Connell


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