High lightning activity in maritime clouds near Mexico
- Centro de Ciencias de la Atmósfera, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Circuito Exterior s/n, Ciudad Universitaria, 04510 México DF, Mexico
Abstract. Lightning activity detected by the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) over oceanic regions adjacent to Mexico is often as high as that observed over the continent. In order to explore the possible causes of the observed high flash density over those regions, the relationships between lightning, rainfall, vertical hydrometeor profiles, latent heating, wind variability and aerosol optical depth are analyzed. The characteristics of lightning and precipitation over four oceanic zones adjacent to Mexican coastlines are contrasted against those over the continent. The number of flashes per rainfall over some coastal maritime regions is found to be higher than over the continent. The largest number of flashes per rainfall is observed during the biomass burning season. In addition, we compare two smaller areas of the Tropical Pacific Ocean: one located within the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone and characterized by high rainfall and weak lightning activity and the other one influenced by a continental wind jet and characterized by high rainfall and strong lightning activity. During the rainy season, the monthly distribution of lightning within the region influenced by the continental wind jet is contrary to that of rainfall. Moreover, the monthly variability of lightning is very similar to the variability of the meridional wind component and it is also related to the variability of aerosol optical depth. The analysis suggests that the high lightning activity observed over coastal Pacific region is linked to the continental cloud condensation nuclei advected over the ocean. Analysis of daily observations indicates that the greatest lightning density is observed for moderate values of the aerosol optical depth, between 0.2 and 0.35.