Lightning forecasting


Feb 11, 2012
Athens, TX
In the past, on a few occasions, I can recall meteorologist forecast dangerous C-G lightning (and high frequency) activity AHEAD of (perhaps 12 hours) it's real-time occurrence. What signals a storm area might have exceptionally high and dangerous lightning rates, and can they predict the type of lightning that might be prevalent (CG, CC, etc)? I suspect it might have something to do with the amount (or lack of) moisture in the over-run air-mass affected, perhaps?

I ask this because I enjoy photographing lightning when the opportunity presents itself and there is nothing else going on, especially in day time hours and when I can be in a preferred area to photograph in. Sometimes it might require half a day of travel to get to an area just ahead of the weather's arrival.

Thanks in advance. Robert
I love photographing lightning as well and thrill to just watching it. I am not aware of any way that we can predict lightning frequency or intensity far in advance of a storm. There are far too many immediate storm environment factors that can hinder or assist storm development. In addition, as has been written in earlier posts, sometimes "air mass" type thunderstorms may be better prolific lightning producers in their brief history than supercell storms.
It is my theory based on informal observation that the first thunderstorm or two that arrives just after a drought or at least a long bout of hot dry weather can sometimes produce more intense lightning than the latter ones.
Aside from that theory, I believe it's catch as catch can.


Sep 2, 2004
Blacksburg, VA
I too have noticed... informally... that the hotter/slightly drier/higher based storms seem to put on some of the best shows. I dunno if there is any more lightning, but the higher bases certainly allow you to see more of it. Also there is a fairly loose correlation with updraft strength... CAPE... Reflectivity. But too many other factors exist to make that a good correlation. Ice condensation nuclei, WBZ level, freezing level, all have parts to play as well. I have seen some good looking radar echos produce nearly no lightning, and the same strength echo the next night can put on a decent show. It would be an interesting problem for research. I know these guys are working on it, I am not particularly familiar with their efforts though. Maybe tomorrow when I am on campus I can find some useful papers if I am not too busy...