Articles | Volume 13, issue 4
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 1085–1104, 2013

Special issue: 13th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Storms: disasters...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 13, 1085–1104, 2013

Research article 24 Apr 2013

Research article | 24 Apr 2013

Using a cloud electrification model to study relationships between lightning activity and cloud microphysical structure

M. Formenton1,*, G. Panegrossi1, D. Casella1, S. Dietrich1, A. Mugnai1, P. Sanò1, F. Di Paola2, H.-D. Betz3, C. Price4, and Y. Yair5 M. Formenton et al.
  • 1Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), Italian National Research Council (CNR), Roma, Italy
  • 2Institute of Methodologies for Environmental Analysis (IMAA), Italian National Research Council (CNR), Tito Scalo (PZ), Italy
  • 3Physics Department, University of Munich, Garching, and Nowacast GmbH, Munich, Germany
  • 4Department of Geophysical, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, Tel-Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel
  • 5Department of Life and Natural Sciences, Open University, Ra'anana, Israel
  • *now at: Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

Abstract. In this study a one-dimensional numerical cloud electrification model, called the Explicit Microphysics Thunderstorm Model (EMTM), is used to find quantitative relationships between the simulated electrical activity and microphysical properties in convective clouds. The model, based on an explicit microphysics scheme coupled to an ice–ice noninductive electrification scheme, allows us to interpret the connection of cloud microphysical structure with charge density distribution within the cloud, and to study the full evolution of the lightning activity (intracloud and cloud-to-ground) in relation to different environmental conditions. Thus, we apply the model to a series of different case studies over continental Europe and the Mediterranean region. We first compare, for selected case studies, the simulated lightning activity with the data provided by the ground-based Lightning Detection Network (LINET) in order to verify the reliability of the model and its limitations, and to assess its ability to reproduce electrical activity consistent with the observations. Then, using all simulations, we find a correlation between some key microphysical properties and cloud electrification, and derive quantitative relationships relating simulated flash rates to minimum thresholds of graupel mass content and updrafts. Finally, we provide outlooks on the use of such relationships and comments on the future development of this study.