The intracloud lightning fraction in the contiguous United States

Gina Medici, Kenneth L. Cummins, Daniel J. Cecil, William J. Koshak, Scott D. Rudlosky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


This work addresses the long-term relative occurrence of cloud-to-ground (CG) and intracloud (IC; no attachment to ground) flashes for the contiguous United States (CONUS). It expands upon an earlier analysis by Boccippio et al. who employed 4-yr datasets provided by the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and the Optical Transient Detector (OTD). Today, the duration of the NLDN historical dataset has more than tripled, and OTD data can be supplemented with data from the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS). This work is timely, given the launch of GOES-16, which includes the world's first geostationary lightning mapper that will observe total lightning (IC and CG) over the Americas and adjacent ocean regions. Findings support earlier results indicating factor-of-10 variations in the IC:CG ratio throughout CONUS, with climatological IC fraction varying between 0.3 and greater than 0.9. The largest values are seen in the Pacific Northwest, central California, and where Colorado borders Kansas and Nebraska. An uncertainty analysis indicates that the large values in the northwest and central California are likely not due to measurement uncertainty. The high IC:CG ratio (>4) throughout much of Texas reported by Boccippio et al. is not supported by this longer-term climatology. There is no clear evidence of differences in IC fraction between land and coastal ocean. Lightning characteristics in six selected large regions show a consistent positive relationship between IC fraction and the percent of positive CG flashes, irrespective of lightning incidence (flash density), dominant season, or diurnal maximum period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4481-4499
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Weather Review
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • Climatology
  • Lightning
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite observations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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