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Spatial, Temporal and Electrical Characteristics of Lightning in Reported Lightning-Initiated Wildfire Events

NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL 35812, USA
NOAA/NWS/NCEP Storm Prediction Center, Norman, OK 73072, USA
United States Forest Service, Redding, CA 96002, USA
Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL 35805, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 7 March 2019 / Revised: 29 March 2019 / Accepted: 30 March 2019 / Published: 3 April 2019
PDF [1389 KB, uploaded 3 April 2019]


Analysis was performed to determine whether a lightning flash could be associated with every reported lightning-initiated wildfire that grew to at least 4 km2. In total, 905 lightning-initiated wildfires within the Continental United States (CONUS) between 2012 and 2015 were analyzed. Fixed and fire radius search methods showed that 81–88% of wildfires had a corresponding lightning flash within a 14 day period prior to the report date. The two methods showed that 52–60% of lightning-initiated wildfires were reported on the same day as the closest lightning flash. The fire radius method indicated the most promising spatial results, where the median distance between the closest lightning and the wildfire start location was 0.83 km, followed by a 75th percentile of 1.6 km and a 95th percentile of 5.86 km. Ninety percent of the closest lightning flashes to wildfires were negative polarity. Maximum flash densities were less than 0.41 flashes km2 for the 24 h period at the fire start location. The majority of lightning-initiated holdover events were observed in the Western CONUS, with a peak density in north-central Idaho. A twelve day holdover event in New Mexico was also discussed, outlining the opportunities and limitations of using lightning data to characterize wildfires.
Keywords: lightning initiated wildfire; flash density; holdover fires lightning initiated wildfire; flash density; holdover fires
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Schultz, C.J.; Nauslar, N.J.; Wachter, J.B.; Hain, C.R.; Bell, J.R. Spatial, Temporal and Electrical Characteristics of Lightning in Reported Lightning-Initiated Wildfire Events. Fire 2019, 2, 18.

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