What is it about?

We have analyzed satellite aerosol and ground-based lightning measurements in 14 summers over northern Alabama. The results show no linear relationship between aerosol loading in the atmosphere and lightning flash rate in general. However, increased light-absorbing aerosols are associated with enhanced lightning when the lightning-producing storms are not strong. Light-absorbing aerosols may occasionally inhibit the formation of storms for a while but result in stronger storms later when triggered.

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Why is it important?

Previous studies thought aerosol impact on lightning, if present, is through changing the cloud droplet number and size and the life time of a storm. However, this study highlights the light absorption property of aerosols may also play a role in storm and lightning activity on a local scale.


When people talk about the impact of aerosols on storms and lightning, it is important to make clear they are talking about a single storm or a group of storms. When a group of lightning-producing storms is studied as a whole, the impact of aerosols through their light absorption property may be more detectable.

Tong Ren
Texas A&M University System

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Lightning and Associated Convection Features in the Presence of Absorbing Aerosols over Northern Alabama, Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres, November 2019, American Geophysical Union (AGU),
DOI: 10.1029/2019jd031544.
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