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The influence of topography on the cloud-to-ground lightning density in South Brazil

Atmospheric Research
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.atmosres.2008.06.010
  • Lightning
  • Thunderstorms
  • Altitude
  • Terrain Slope
  • Topographic Effects


Abstract A comparative analysis between cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning density and terrain parameters (altitude and terrain slope) in South Brazil is presented. This region is characterized by a contrasting topography, where a mountain chain separates lower (depression) and higher (plateau) landscapes. The altitude and terrain slope data were obtained from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM). Two years of CG lightning data (from June 2005 to May 2007) obtained by the Brazilian Lightning Detection Network (BrasilDAT) were used in the study. To avoid intracloud contamination, positive CG flashes with peak currents less than 20 kA were removed from the data set. A relative detection efficiency model was used to correct the lightning data. The results indicate that, for localized areas (following the mountain shape) within this region of Brazil, the CG lightning density is correlated with the terrain slope and not the altitude. This suggests that terrain slope has more influence than altitude on the thunderstorm occurrence and lightning activity. In addition, a temporal analysis shows that over high altitude regions the diurnal variation (amplitude) of lightning activity is stronger and the peak occurs 1 h earlier than over low altitude regions.

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