Thunderstorm tracking in Northwest Europe for enhanced hazard preparedness

Leah Hayward, Malcolm Whitworth, Nick Pepin, Steve Dorling

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The tracking of thunderstorms provides critical information on their frequency and behaviour for early warning, prediction and preparedness. Thunderstorm tracking has previously been constrained by the boundaries of a particular country or has focused on a particular category such as severe thunderstorms and mesoscale convective systems. However, less severe thunderstorms also pose a risk to life and property and occur more frequently and thus warrant inclusion in investigations of thunderstorm behaviour. In this paper, we present a new thunderstorm event catalogue, including all detected thunderstorms with at least three lightning flashes, derived from a tracking methodology applied to Northwest Europe within the bounds of 48° to 65°N and 15°W to 10°E between 2008 and 2018. The catalogue is based on ATDnet lightning flash data which was clustered into thunderstorms using a spatio-temporal proximity assessment lightning clustering code written in the R coding language. The thunderstorm lightning clusters enabled the production of thunderstorm behaviour statistics such as speed, direction of movement, lightning flashes per minute and duration. This revealed that in winter, thunderstorms are shorter lived and move faster than in summer as well as more typically tracking from the west rather than from the south-west. Thunderstorm behaviour characteristics were attributed to weather pattern types for the first time, providing probabilistic data that can be attributed to synoptic conditions. This can improve preparedness and early warning. Such results demonstrate how this new thunderstorm event catalogue, which includes all types and severities of thunderstorms unconstrained by political boundaries, can provide additional important information to enhance understanding of thunderstorm behaviour in the region. Our lightning clustering method may be useful for similar studies in other locales.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Early online date30 May 2023
Publication statusEarly online - 30 May 2023


  • Ireland
  • lightning
  • Northwest Europe
  • thunderstorm synoptics
  • thunderstorm tracking
  • thunderstorms
  • UK

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