Articles | Volume 17, issue 3
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 305–314, 2017
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 305–314, 2017

Research article 06 Mar 2017

Research article | 06 Mar 2017

Spatio-temporal modelling of lightning climatologies for complex terrain

Thorsten Simon1,2, Nikolaus Umlauf2, Achim Zeileis2, Georg J. Mayr1, Wolfgang Schulz3, and Gerhard Diendorfer3 Thorsten Simon et al.
  • 1Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 2Department of Statistics, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 3OVE-ALDIS, Vienna, Austria

Abstract. This study develops methods for estimating lightning climatologies on the day−1 km−2 scale for regions with complex terrain and applies them to summertime observations (2010–2015) of the lightning location system ALDIS in the Austrian state of Carinthia in the Eastern Alps.

Generalized additive models (GAMs) are used to model both the probability of occurrence and the intensity of lightning. Additive effects are set up for altitude, day of the year (season) and geographical location (longitude/latitude). The performance of the models is verified by 6-fold cross-validation.

The altitude effect of the occurrence model suggests higher probabilities of lightning for locations on higher elevations. The seasonal effect peaks in mid-July. The spatial effect models several local features, but there is a pronounced minimum in the north-west and a clear maximum in the eastern part of Carinthia. The estimated effects of the intensity model reveal similar features, though they are not equal. The main difference is that the spatial effect varies more strongly than the analogous effect of the occurrence model.

A major asset of the introduced method is that the resulting climatological information varies smoothly over space, time and altitude. Thus, the climatology is capable of serving as a useful tool in quantitative applications, i.e. risk assessment and weather prediction.

Short summary
The study presents a newly developed statistical method to assess the risk of thunderstorms in complex terrain. Observations of lightning serve as an indicator for thunderstorms. The application of the method is illustrated for Carinthia which is located in Austria, Europe.
Final-revised paper