Comprehensive lightning statistics are presented for a large, contiguous domain covering several European countries such as France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Spatiotemporal variability of convective activity is investigated based on a 14-year time series (2001–2014) of lightning data. Based on the binary variable thunderstorm day, the mean spatial patterns of lightning activity and regional peculiarities regarding seasonality are discussed. Diurnal cycles are compared among several regions and evaluated with respect to major seasonal changes. Further analyses are performed regarding interannual variability and the impact of teleconnection patterns on convection.
Mean convective activity across central Europe is characterized by a strong northwest-to-southeast gradient with pronounced secondary features superimposed. The zone of maximum values of thunderstorm days propagates southwestward along the southern Alpine range from April to July. Diurnal cycles vary substantially between both different months and regions, particularly regarding the incidence of nighttime lightning. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is shown to have a significant impact on convective activity in several regions, which is primarily caused by variations of the large-scale lifting pattern in both NAO phases. This dynamical effect is partly compensated for by thermodynamical modifications of the pre-convective environment. The results point to a crucial role of large-scale flow in steering the spatiotemporal patterns of convective activity.
This article presents a hail frequency estimation based on the detection of cold overshooting cloud tops (OTs) from the Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) operational weather satellites, in combination with a hail-specific filter derived from the ERA-INTERIM reanalysis. This filter has been designed based on the atmospheric properties in the vicinity of hail reports registered in the European Severe Weather Database (ESWD). These include Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), 0–6-km bulk wind shear and freezing level height, evaluated at the nearest time step and interpolated from the reanalysis grid to the location of the hail report. Regions highly exposed to hail events include Northern Italy, followed by South-Eastern Austria and Eastern Spain. Pronounced hail frequency is also found in large parts of Eastern Europe, around the Alps, the Czech Republic, Southern Germany, Southern and Eastern France, and in the Iberic and Apennine mountain ranges.