Sunday Lightning and Tornadogenesis

Another thread touched on the subject of tornadic storms, lightning, and tornadogenesis. I think it will make a good topic so I repost my comments here (following).

Well, it's very interesting. You mention lightning and tornadogenesis. This would be good to start a new topic on. I was on the cell Sunday very early just about 10 miles south of Spur as the initial tornadoes were ongoing. Tornadoes directly to my west, and I was in some of the precip from the core and anvil nearby. I was getting constant violent 'staccato' type lightning right on top and around me. That is one of the main reasons I retreated rather than sit there and watch whatever tornadoes it was about to produce. Many of these were very strange bolts. As I recall most began right after the initial tornadoes but while the wallcloud was still churning and planning on dropping more (probably bigger) tornadoes. They were instantaneously fast. Snap of the fingers timespan and they would appear and be gone. Though very close, most were completely, bizarrely, silent. They would fork out from the base in mid air and many did not actually reach the ground. They were just zipping all around me. At the same time, there were also the typical CG's hitting nearby. It was a bit concerning that's why I backed off. As I recall one of the guys on this list is collecting data for a study related to lightning and tornadogenesis. There does seem to be some type of connection. This type of lightning I am describing is very rare and unique and seems to have different properties. I don't know if any other chasers saw any of this because at the time I thought I was the first chaser on the tornadic area that close out in the countryside. I suppose others could have been spread out on different back roads though and I just didn't see them, but initially I saw no other chasers except some parked and out of their vehicle that I had left about 5 miles to the northwest of my later position near the wallcloud.
I was near a fenceline w/ Steve Miller and Chris Collura. A few bolts popped not too far away and I was thinking of the story where the chasers got zapped while standing near a fence. The meso/funnel core got too close and just as we turned to head back to our cars a bolt hit so close that we heard it before we saw the flash (or so it seemed). We all reflexively ducked and ran back across the road in crouched positions as other bolts were hitting too close for comfort. The excitement of the moment somewhat dulled the reality that we weren't being particularly smart. I didn't see any forks branching out and stopping in mid-air, but then my head was lowered.

I haven't had a chance to review video yet but I would be extremely interested in seeing any video of such lightning.
Originally posted by Glenn Dixon

I haven't had a chance to review video yet but I would be extremely interested in seeing any video of such lightning.

Wow, you know...that's a good point. I wonder if I got any of it. I had the dashcam running but haven't reviewed any footage from it. Surely it caught some of these flashes. Also, surely the quick bolts made noise but I don't remember hearing any thunder from them. Guess I'll get back and post a vid clip if I find any.
I just finished reading "An examination of the 12 June 2004 Mulvane, Kansas Tornado" paper by Scott Blair and Eric Nguyen. In their lightning data section they comment

"The authors also observed many cases of “staccatoâ€￾ flashes in the rain free regions as described by Bluestein and MacGorman (1998). It is speculated that the active flash region near and just south of the mesocyclone is partially responsible to the lowering of reflectivity values associated with the BWER."


"The location of CG strikes related to the supercell resulted in both normal and abnormal findings. As expected, a large amount of strikes were recorded within the precipitation region. However, large concentrations of strikes were noted in precipitation free (surface) regions, most notably near the mesocyclone and just south of the mesocyclone (Fig. 10). Traditionally, this is a region that does not experience a high volume of CG activity."

This is a good read if you're interested -

David Douglas
Austin, TX
Earlier this year at the ICT NWS conference "Airmass 2005" there was a discussion about lightning research as it pertains to tornadogenisis. It was quite interesting and the lightning research people are looking for increased funding for projects for this kind of research.
Yeah David, I read that paper and found it fascinating. As I recall it made me think up a hypothesis related to creation of RFD when the updraft region collapses (lowered BWER) as possible aid to tornadogenesis at times. Although I suppose it seems that while sometimes the RFD helps tornadogenesis at other times it seems to kill it. I believe they mention something about that in the paper in regards to the Theta E features of various RFD (or maybe I remember that from elsewhere).

I'll have to check that tape and see if there is lightning since everyone is looking at lightning videos lately.