Climate and Dynamics
Cloud-to-ground lightning characteristics over Houston, Texas: 1989–2000
Article first published online: 7 JUN 2002
Copyright 2002 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012)
Volume 107, Issue D11, pages ACL 2-1–ACL 2-12, 16 June 2002
How to Cite
Cloud-to-ground lightning characteristics over Houston, Texas: 1989–2000, J. Geophys. Res., 107(D11), doi:10.1029/2001JD001142, 2002., , and ,
- Issue published online: 7 JUN 2002
- Article first published online: 7 JUN 2002
- Manuscript Accepted: 28 NOV 2001
- Manuscript Revised: 26 NOV 2001
- Manuscript Received: 17 JUL 2001
 Cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning detected by the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) indicates a relatively high flash density over Houston, Texas, for the 12-year period 1989–2000. A significant enhancement of 45% in the flash density is observed compared to the nearby surrounding areas. The strength of the enhancement varies on the basis of season and time of day, with the greatest increases occurring during the summer (58%) and during the 0900–1800 LT time periods in each season. Observations indicate that large lightning events (defined as days with >100 flashes in a geographic region that includes Houston and nearby rural areas) were responsible for the climatological lightning anomaly and that increased thunderstorm initiation was not the most significant cause of the enhancement. A decrease (−12%) in the percentage of positive flashes is observed over the city. Higher negative median peak currents along the coast and well into the Gulf of Mexico were also discovered. Several explanations for our observations are suggested. The urban heat island and increased cloud condensation nuclei concentrations, especially from industrial pollution, are speculated to be significant factors in creating lightning enhancement. Pollution effects are speculated to cause a change in a thunderstorm's charge distribution, which can affect the polarity of CG flashes. The potential effect of the nearby coastal Gulf salt water on the calculated peak current is examined. Variations in multiplicity values across the region are observed but not explained.