Highly intense lightning over the oceans: Estimated peak currents from global GLD360 observations

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Abstract

[1] We present the first global distribution of the average estimated peak currents in negative lightning flashes using 1 year of continuous data from the Vaisala global lightning data set GLD360. The data set, composed of 353 million flashes, was compared with the National Lightning Detection NetworkTM for peak current accuracy, location accuracy, and detection efficiency. The validation results demonstrated a mean (geometric mean) peak current magnitude error of 21% (6%), a median location accuracy of 2.5 km, and a relative ground flash detection efficiency of 57% averaged over all positive and negative reference flashes, and 67% for all reference flashes above 15 kA. The distribution of peak currents for negative flashes shifts to higher magnitudes over the ocean. Three case study 10°×10° regions are analyzed, in which the peak current enhancement is extremely sharp at the coastline, suggesting that the higher peak currents for oceanic lightning cannot be solely attributable to network artifacts such as detection efficiency and peak current estimation error. In these regions, the geometric mean and 95th percentile of the peak current distribution for negative cloud to ocean flashes is 22%–88% and 65%–121% higher, respectively, compared to cloud to ground flashes in nearby land regions. Globally, the majority of all negative flashes with estimated peak current magnitude above 75 kA occur over the ocean.

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