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Lightning and 85-GHz MCSs in the Global TropicsNumerous observations of tropical convection show that tropical continental mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) are much more prolific lightning producers than their oceanic counterparts. Satellite-based climatologies using 85-GHz passive microwave ice-scattering signatures from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I) indicate that MCSs of various size and intensity are found throughout the global tropics. In contrast, global lightning distributions show a strong land bias with an order of magnitude difference between land and ocean lightning. This is somewhat puzzling, since 85-GHz ice-scattering and the charge separation processes that lead to lightning are both thought to depend upon the existence of large graupel particles. The fact that low 85-GHz brightness temperatures are observed in tropical oceanic MCSs containing virtually no lightning leads to the postulate that tropical oceanic and tropical continental MCSs have fundamentally different hydrometeor profiles through the mixed phase region of the cloud (0 C <= T <= 20 C). Until recently, validation of this postulate has not been practicable on a global scale. Recent deployment of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite presents a unique opportunity for MCS studies. The multi-sensor instrument ensemble aboard TRMM, including a multi-channel microwave radiometer, the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS), and the first space-borne radar, facilitates high-resolution case studies of MCS structure throughout the global tropics. An important precursor, however, is to better understand the distribution of MCSs and lightning in the tropics. With that objective in mind, this research undertakes a systematic comparison of 85-GHz-defined MCSs and lightning over the global tropics for a full year, as an initial step toward quantifying differences between land and ocean convective systems.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Toracinta, E. Richard
(Texas A&M Univ. College Station, TX United States)
Zipser, E. J.
(Utah Univ. Salt Lake City, UT United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
June 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: 11th International Conference on Atmospheric Electricity
Subject Category
Meteorology And Climatology
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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