Total lightning activity associated with tornadic storms
Severe storms often have high flash rates (in excess of one flash per second) and are dominated by intracloud lightning activity. In addition to the extraordinary flash rates, there is a second distinguishing lightning characteristic of severe storms that seems to be important. When the total lightning history is examined, one finds sudden increases in the lightning rate, which we refer to as lightning "jumps", that precede the occurrence of severe weather by ten or more minutes. These jumps are typically 30-60 flashes/min, and are easily identified as anomalously large derivatives in the flash rate. This relationship is associated with updraft intensification and updraft strength is an important factor in storm severity (through the accumulation of condensate aloft and the stretching of vorticity). In several cases, evidence for diminishment of midlevel rotation and the descent of angular momentum from aloft is present prior to the appearance of the surface tornado. Based on our experience with severe and tornadic storms in Central Florida, we believe the total lightning may augment the more traditional use of NEXRAD radars and storm spotters. However, a more rigorous relation of these jumps to storm kinematics is needed if we are to apply total lightning in a decision tree that leads to improved warning lead times and decreased false alarm rates.