Articles | Volume 11, issue 8
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 2125–2135, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-2125-2011

Special issue: 12th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Storms

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 2125–2135, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-11-2125-2011

Research article 04 Aug 2011

Research article | 04 Aug 2011

The spatio-temporal distribution of lightning over Israel and the neighboring area and its relation to regional synoptic systems

S. Shalev1, H. Saaroni1, T. Izsak1, Y. Yair2, and B. Ziv2 S. Shalev et al.
  • 1Dept. of Geography and the Human Environment, Tel-Aviv University, Israel
  • 2Dept. of Natural Sciences, The Open University of Israel, Israel

Abstract. The spatio-temporal distribution of lightning flashes over Israel and the neighboring area and its relation to the regional synoptic systems has been studied, based on data obtained from the Israel Lightning Location System (ILLS) operated by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). The system detects cloud-to-ground lightning discharges in a range of ~500 km around central Israel (32.5° N, 35° E). The study period was defined for annual activity from August through July, for 5 seasons in the period 2004–2010.

The spatial distribution of lightning flash density indicates the highest concentration over the Mediterranean Sea, attributed to the contribution of moisture as well as sensible and latent heat fluxes from the sea surface. Other centers of high density appear along the coastal plain, orographic barriers, especially in northern Israel, and downwind from the metropolitan area of Tel Aviv, Israel. The intra-annual distribution shows an absence of lightning during the summer months (JJA) due to the persistent subsidence over the region. The vast majority of lightning activity occurs during 7 months, October to April. Although over 65 % of the rainfall in Israel is obtained during the winter months (DJF), only 35 % of lightning flashes occur in these months. October is the richest month, with 40 % of total annual flashes. This is attributed both to tropical intrusions, i.e., Red Sea Troughs (RST), which are characterized by intense static instability and convection, and to Cyprus Lows (CLs) arriving from the west.

Based on daily study of the spatial distribution of lightning, three patterns have been defined; "land", "maritime" and "hybrid". CLs cause high flash density over the Mediterranean Sea, whereas some of the RST days are typified by flashes over land. The pattern defined "hybrid" is a combination of the other 2 patterns. On CL days, only the maritime pattern was noted, whereas in RST days all 3 patterns were found, including the maritime pattern. It is suggested that atmospheric processes associated with RST produce the land pattern. Hence, the occurrence of a maritime pattern in days identified as RST reflects an "apparent RST". The hybrid pattern was associated with an RST located east of Israel. This synoptic type produced the typical flash maximum over the land, but the upper-level trough together with the onshore winds it induced over the eastern coast of the Mediterranean resulted in lightning activity over the sea as well, similar to that of CLs.

It is suggested that the spatial distribution patterns of lightning may better identify the synoptic system responsible, a CL, an "active RST" or an "apparent RST". The electrical activity thus serves as a "fingerprint" for the synoptic situation responsible for its generation.

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