Global cloud-to-ground lightning data to inform wildfire ignition patterns

Esther Brambleby, Sander Veraverbeke, Guilherme Mataveli, Manoj Joshi, Matthew Jones

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Lightning is recognised as a crucial wildfire ignition source worldwide, especially in remote regions including boreal and temperate forests where large carbon stocks are held. The societal consequences of these wildfires, as well as their contribution to climate change, can be immense. The occurrence of lightning is projected to increase in these areas under climate change, however robust assessments of lightning contribution to wildfire risk have been restricted to selected regions due to the narrow spatial extent of cloud-to-ground lightning records. Consequently, evaluations of lightning-fire relationships using existing global lightning observational datasets have been limited to considering the total amount of lightning. Only cloud-to-ground lightning can ignite a wildfire, therefore when considering impacts on wildfire risk it is essential to distinguish between lightning types.

Using Vaisala’s unique Global Lightning Dataset (GLD360), which discriminates between cloud lightning and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, we present our preliminary analyses of the spatial patterns and seasonality of cloud-to-ground lightning. Here, we show the regional variation in the lightning frequency and the cloud-to-ground fraction, as well as the strength (current) and polarity of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

By considering cloud-to-ground lightning strikes only, we characterise the spatial and seasonal variation in lightning events with the potential to ignite wildfires. Combining global observations of lightning strikes with observations of individual fires and coincident meteorology will advance our mechanistic understanding of wildfire ignition potential in a range of weather conditions, improve the process representation of the ignition process in global models, and refine projections of changing wildfire risks under climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2024
EventEuropean Geosciences Union, General Assembly 2024 - Vienna
Duration: 14 Apr 202419 Apr 2024


ConferenceEuropean Geosciences Union, General Assembly 2024

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