Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2659–2670, 2012
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 2659–2670, 2012

Research article 22 Aug 2012

Research article | 22 Aug 2012

A lightning climatology of the South-West Indian Ocean

C. Bovalo, C. Barthe, and N. Bègue C. Bovalo et al.
  • Laboratoire de l'Atmosphère et des Cyclones, UMR8105, CNRS/INSU – Météo France and Université de La Réunion, Saint-Denis, La Réunion, France

Abstract. The World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) data have been used to perform a lightning climatology in the South-West Indian Ocean (SWIO) region from 2005 to 2011. Maxima of lightning activity were found in the Maritime Continent and southwest of Sri Lanka (>50 fl km−2 yr−1) but also over Madagascar and above the Great Lakes of East Africa (>10–20 fl km−2 yr−1). Lightning flashes within tropical storms and tropical cyclones represent 50 % to 100 % of the total lightning activity in some oceanic areas of the SWIO (between 10° S and 20° S).

The SWIO is characterized by a wet season (November to April) and a dry season (May to October). As one could expect, lightning activity is more intense during the wet season as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) is present over all the basin. Flash density is higher over land in November–December–January with values reaching 3–4 fl km−2 yr−1 over Madagascar. During the dry season, lightning activity is quite rare between 10° S and 25° S. The Mascarene anticyclone has more influence on the SWIO resulting in shallower convection. Lightning activity is concentrated over ocean, east of South Africa and Madagascar.

A statistical analysis has shown that El Niño–Southern Oscillation mainly modulates the lightning activity up to 56.8% in the SWIO. The Indian Ocean Dipole has a significant contribution since ~49% of the variability is explained by this forcing in some regions. The Madden–Julian Oscillation did not show significative impact on the lightning activity in our study.