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Spatial patterns of lightning strikes in interior Alaska and their relations to elevation and vegetation

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Abstract:

The relationship between lightning strike density, vegetation, and elevation was investigated at three different spatial scales: (i) interior Alaska (~630 000 km2), (ii) six longitudinal transects (~100 000 km2), and (iii) 17 individual physiographic subregions (~50 000 km2) within Alaska. The data consisted of 14 years (1986–1999) of observations by the Alaska Fire Service lightning strike detection network. The best explanation for the variation in lightning strike density was provided by a combination of the areal coverage of boreal forest and elevation. Each of these factors has the potential to influence the convective activity. Our study suggests that in a region that is climatically favorable for air-mass thunderstorms, surface properties may enhance local lightning storm development in the boreal forest. Lightning strikes were found to occur frequently both in mountainous areas and at river flats, which is contrary to results from previous Alaskan studies.

La relation entre la densité de la foudre, la végétation et l'altitude a été étudiée à trois échelles spatiales distinctes: (i) la zone intérieure de l'Alaska (~630 000 km2), (ii) six transects longitudinaux (~100 000 km2) et (iii) 17 sous régions physiographiques (~50 000 km2) à l'intérieur de l'Alaska. Les données proviennent des observations du réseau de détection de la foudre du Service des incendies de l'Alaska et couvrent une période de 14 ans (1986–1999). Une combinaison de la répartition spatiale de la forêt boréale et de l'altitude explique le mieux la variation dans la densité de la foudre. Chacun de ces facteurs a la possibilité d'influencer l'activité convective. Notre étude porte à croire que, dans une région où le climat est favorable aux masses d'air orageuses, les propriétés de surface peuvent favoriser le développement des orages localement dans la forêt boréale. Contrairement aux résultats d'études précédentes en Alaska, nous avons observé que la foudre frappe fréquemment tant dans les régions montagneuses que sur les battures de rivière.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2003-05-01

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