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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 18 Jun 2020

Submitted as: research article | 18 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

Distinct aerosol effects on cloud-to-ground lightning in the plateau and basin regions of Sichuan, Southwest China

Pengguo Zhao1,2,3, Zhanqing Li2, Hui Xiao4, Fang Wu5, Youtong Zheng2, Maureen C. Cribb2, Xiaoai Jin5, and Yunjun Zhou1 Pengguo Zhao et al.
  • 1Plateau Atmosphere and Environment Key Laboratory of Sichuan Province, College of Atmospheric Science, Chengdu University of Information Technology, Chengdu 610225, China
  • 2Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD20742, USA
  • 3Key Laboratory for Cloud Physics of China Meteorological Administration,Beijing 100081, China
  • 4Guangzhou Institute of Tropical and Marine Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, Guangzhou 510640, China
  • 5State Laboratory of Remote Sensing Sciences, College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China

Abstract. The joint effects of aerosol, thermodynamic, and cloud-related factors on cloud-to-ground lightning in Sichuan were investigated by a comprehensive analysis of ground measurements made from 2005 to 2017 in combination with reanalysis data. Data include aerosol optical depth, cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning density, convective available potential energy (CAPE), mid-level relative humidity, lower- to mid-tropospheric vertical wind shear, cloud-base height, total column liquid water (TCLW), and total column ice water (TCIW). Results show that CG lightning density and aerosols are positively correlated in the plateau region and negatively correlated in the basin region. Sulfate aerosols are found to be more strongly associated with lightning than total aerosols, so this study focuses on the role of sulfate aerosols in lightning activity. In the plateau region, the lower aerosol concentration stimulates lightning activity through microphysical effects. Increasing the aerosol loading reduces the cloud droplet size, reducing the cloud droplet collision-coalescence efficiency and inhibiting the warm-rain process. More small cloud droplets are transported above the freezing level to participate in the freezing process, forming more ice particles and releasing more latent heat during the freezing process. Thus, an increase in aerosol loading increases CAPE, TCLW, and TCIW, stimulating CG lightning in the plateau region. In the basin region, by contrast, the higher concentration of aerosols inhibits lightning activity through the radiative effect. An increase in aerosol loading reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the ground, thereby lowering CAPE. The intensity of convection decreases, resulting in less supercooled water transported to the freezing level and fewer ice particles forming, thus increasing the total liquid water content. Therefore, an increase in aerosol loading suppresses the intensity of convective activity and CG lightning in the basin region.

Pengguo Zhao et al.

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Pengguo Zhao et al.

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Latest update: 05 Jul 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We discussed the different effects aerosols on lightning in plateau and basin regions of Sichuan, Southwest China. In the plateau area, the aerosol concentration is low, and aerosols, through microphysical effects, inhibit the process of warm rain and then stimulate convection and lightning activity. While, in the basin region, aerosols tend to show significant radiative effect, which reduce the solar radiation reaching the surface by absorbing and scattering, and then inhibit the lightning.
We discussed the different effects aerosols on lightning in plateau and basin regions of...