Articles | Volume 17, issue 8
Research article
08 Aug 2017
Research article |  | 08 Aug 2017

Spatiotemporal variability of lightning activity in Europe and the relation to the North Atlantic Oscillation teleconnection pattern

David Piper and Michael Kunz

Abstract. Comprehensive lightning statistics are presented for a large, contiguous domain covering several European countries such as France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Spatiotemporal variability of convective activity is investigated based on a 14-year time series (2001–2014) of lightning data. Based on the binary variable thunderstorm day, the mean spatial patterns of lightning activity and regional peculiarities regarding seasonality are discussed. Diurnal cycles are compared among several regions and evaluated with respect to major seasonal changes. Further analyses are performed regarding interannual variability and the impact of teleconnection patterns on convection.

Mean convective activity across central Europe is characterized by a strong northwest-to-southeast gradient with pronounced secondary features superimposed. The zone of maximum values of thunderstorm days propagates southwestward along the southern Alpine range from April to July. Diurnal cycles vary substantially between both different months and regions, particularly regarding the incidence of nighttime lightning. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is shown to have a significant impact on convective activity in several regions, which is primarily caused by variations of the large-scale lifting pattern in both NAO phases. This dynamical effect is partly compensated for by thermodynamical modifications of the pre-convective environment. The results point to a crucial role of large-scale flow in steering the spatiotemporal patterns of convective activity.

Final-revised paper