Maximum hurricane intensity preceded by increase in lightning frequency

Colin Price, Mustafa Asfur, Yoav Yair

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hurricanes are the Earths most deadly storms, causing tremendous devastation around the globe every year. Forecasters are quite successful in predicting the pathways of hurricanes days in advance, but hurricane intensification is less accurately predicted. Here we analyse the evolution of maximum winds and total lightning frequency every 6 h during the entire lifetime of 56 hurricanes around the globe. We find that in all of these hurricanes, lightning frequency and maximum sustained winds are significantly correlated (mean correlation coefficient of 0.82), where the maximum sustained winds and minimum pressures in hurricanes are preceded by increases in lightning activity approximately one day before the peak winds. We suggest that increases in lightning activity in hurricanes are related to enhanced convection that increases the rate of moistening of the lower troposphere, which in turn leads to the intensification of hurricanes. As lightning activity can now be monitored continuously in hurricanes at any location around the globe, lightning data may contribute to better hurricane forecasts in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-332
Number of pages4
JournalNature Geoscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was financially supported in part by the Research Authority of the Open University of Israel. WWLLN data were kindly made available by R. Dowden (University of Otago, New Zealand) and R. Holzworth (University of Washington, USA).

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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