East African lightning as a precursor of Atlantic hurricane activity

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Abstract

[1] Recent years have shown the tremendous damage and loss of life that can be caused by Atlantic Basin hurricanes. The majority of these hurricanes start as African easterly waves (AEWs) over the African continent. In this paper we provide evidence showing the connection between lightning activity over eastern Africa, and the AEWs that leave the west coast of Africa, some of which develop into hurricanes. We have analyzed the 2005 and 2006 hurricane seasons, one a very active hurricane year (2005), and the other a very quiet year (2006). More than 90% of the tropical storms and hurricanes during these 2 years were preceded by periods of above average thunderstorm activity in eastern Africa. During the 2006 season not only was the east African lightning activity 23% lower than during 2005, but there was 36% less lightning activity over the entire African continent during 2006. We suggest the possibility that lightning activity in tropical Africa may represent an important precursor of Atlantic hurricane formation.

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