Journal cover Journal topic
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 8, 921-953, 2008
© Author(s) 2008. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
25 Feb 2008
Lightning activity in Brazilian thunderstorms during TROCCINOX: implications for NOx production
H. Huntrieser1, U. Schumann1, H. Schlager1, H. Höller1, A. Giez2, H.-D. Betz3, D. Brunner4,*, C. Forster5,**, O. Pinto Jr.6, and R. Calheiros7 1Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
2Flugabteilung, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
3Physics Department, University of Munich, Germany
4Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland
5Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Atmosphere and Climate Change Department, Kjeller, Norway
6National Institute for Space Research, INPE, Brazil
7Instituto de Pesquisas Meteorológicas – Universidade Estadual Paulista, IPMet/UNESP, Bauru, Brazil
*now at: Laboratory for Air Pollution and Environmental Technology, Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, Dübendorf, Switzerland
**now at: Institut für Physik der Atmosphäre, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
Abstract. During the TROCCINOX field experiment in January and February 2005, the contribution of lightning-induced nitrogen oxides (LNOx) from tropical and subtropical thunderstorms in Southern Brazil was investigated. Airborne trace gas measurements (NO, NOy, CO and O3) were performed up to 12.5 km with the German research aircraft Falcon. During anvil penetrations in selected tropical and subtropical thunderstorms of 4 and 18 February, NOx mixing ratios were on average enhanced by 0.7–1.2 and 0.2–0.8 nmol mol−1 totally, respectively. The relative contributions of boundary layer NOx (BL-NOx) and LNOx to anvil-NOx were derived from the NOx-CO correlations. On average ~80–90% of the anvil-NOx was attributed to LNOx. A Lightning Location Network (LINET) was set up to monitor the local distribution of cloud-to-ground (CG) and intra-cloud (IC) radiation sources (here called "strokes") and compared with lightning data from the operational Brazilian network RINDAT (Rede Integrada Nacional de Detecção de Descargas Atmosféricas). The horizontal LNOx mass flux out of the anvil was determined from the mean LNOx mixing ratio, the horizontal outflow velocity and the size of the vertical cross-section of the anvil, and related to the number of strokes contributing to LNOx. The values of these parameters were derived from the airborne measurements, from lightning and radar observations, and from a trajectory analysis. The amount of LNOx produced per LINET stroke depending on measured peak current was determined. The results were scaled up with the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) flash rate (44 flashes s−1) to obtain an estimate of the global LNOx production rate. The final results gave ~1 and ~2–3 kg(N) per LIS flash based on measurements in three tropical and one subtropical Brazilian thunderstorms, respectively, suggesting that tropical flashes may be less productive than subtropical ones. The equivalent mean annual global LNOx nitrogen mass production rate was estimated to be 1.6 and 3.1 Tg a−1, respectively. By use of LINET observations in Germany in July 2005, a comparison with the lightning activity in mid-latitude thunderstorms was also performed. In general, the same frequency distribution of stroke peak currents as for tropical thunderstorms over Brazil was found. The different LNOx production rates per stroke in tropical thunderstorms compared with subtropical and mid-latitude thunderstorms seem to be related to the different stroke lengths (inferred from comparison with laboratory data and observed lengths). In comparison, the impact of other lightning parameters as stroke peak current and stroke release height was assessed to be minor. The results from TROCCINOX suggest that the different vertical wind shear may be responsible for the different stroke lengths.

Citation: Huntrieser, H., Schumann, U., Schlager, H., Höller, H., Giez, A., Betz, H.-D., Brunner, D., Forster, C., Pinto Jr., O., and Calheiros, R.: Lightning activity in Brazilian thunderstorms during TROCCINOX: implications for NOx production, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 8, 921-953,, 2008.
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