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Science. 1998 Oct 2;282(5386):77-80.

Enhanced positive cloud-to-ground lightning in thunderstorms ingesting smoke from fires

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  • 1W. A. Lyons and T. E. Nelson, FMA Research Inc., Yucca Ridge Field Station, Fort Collins, CO 80524, USA. E. R. Williams, Parsons Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. J. A. Cramer and T. R. Turner, Glo.


Smoke from forest fires in southern Mexico was advected into the U.S. southern plains from April to June 1998. Cloud-to-ground lightning (CG) flash data from the National Lightning Detection Network matched against satellite-mapped aerosol plumes imply that thunderstorms forming in smoke-contaminated air masses generated large amounts of lightning with positive polarity (+CGs). During 2 months, nearly half a million flashes in the southern plains exhibited +CG percentages that were triple the climatological norm. The peak currents in these +CGs were double the expected value. These thunderstorms also produced abnormally high numbers of mesospheric optical sprites.

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