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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 May 2019

Research article | 17 May 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

SAETTA: high resolution 3D mapping of the total lightning activity in the Mediterranean basin over Corsica, with a focus on a MCS event

Sylvain Coquillat1, Eric Defer1, Pierre de Guibert1, Dominique Lambert1, Jean-Pierre Pinty1, Véronique Pont1, Serge Prieur1, Ronald J. Thomas2, Paul R. Krehbiel2, and William Rison2 Sylvain Coquillat et al.
  • 1Laboratoire d'Aérologie, Université Toulouse 3 Paul Sabatier, CNRS, Toulouse, France
  • 2Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, New Mexico Tech, Socorro, New Mexico, USA

Abstract. Deployed in the mountainous island of Corsica for thunderstorm monitoring purpose in the Mediterranean Basin, SAETTA is a network of 12 LMA stations (Lightning Mapping Array, designed by New Mexico Tech, USA) that allows the 3-D mapping of VHF radiations emitted by cloud discharges in the 60–66 MHz band. It works at high temporal (80 µs) and spatial (tens of meters at best) resolutions within a range of about 350 km. Originally deployed in May 2014, SAETTA was commissioned during the summer and fall seasons and is now permanently operational since April 2016 until at least the end of 2020. We first evaluate the performances of SAETTA through the radial, azimuthal, and altitude errors of VHF sources localization with the theoretical model of Thomas et al. (2004). We also compute on a 240 km × 240 km domain the minimum altitude at which a VHF source can be detected by at least 6 stations by taking into account the mask effect of the relief. We then report the 3-year observations on the same domain in terms of number of lightning days per square kilometer and in terms of lightning days integrated on the whole domain. The lightning activity is first maximum in June because of daytime convection driven by solar energy input, but concentrates on a specific hot spot in July just above the crossroad of the three main valleys. This hot spot is probably due to the low-level convergence of moist air fluxes from sea breezes channeled by the three valleys. Lighting activity increases again in September due to numerous small thunderstorms above the sea and to some high precipitating events. Finally we report lightning observations of unusual high altitude discharges associated with the mesoscale convective system of June 8, 2015. Most of them are small discharges on top of an intense convective core during convective surges. They are considered in the flash classification of Thomas et al. (2003) as small-isolated and short-isolated flashes. The other high altitude discharges, much less numerous, are long range flashes that develop through the stratiform region and suddenly undergo upward propagations towards an uppermost thin layer of charge. This observation supports the recent conceptual model of Dye and Bansemer (2019) that explains such upper level layer of charge in the stratiform region by the development of a non-riming ice collisional charging in a mesoscale updraft.

Sylvain Coquillat et al.
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Sylvain Coquillat et al.
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Short summary
Characteristics of SAETTA lightning imager installed in Corsica are presented, with original observations of lightning activity at regional and lightning scales. SAETTA monitors thunderstorms in a maritime and mountainous region, complex for weather forecasting and sensitive to global warming. A 3-year lightning climatology highlights frequent activity over a specific region due to relief. Original high discharges in stratiform area of a thundercloud support a recent model of charging process.
Characteristics of SAETTA lightning imager installed in Corsica are presented, with original...