A comparison of two cases of low-latitude thundersnow
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Two cases of low-latitude snow with lightning are studied to determine their characteristics. Both cases had synoptic-scale origins, but also featured smaller-scale influences (e. g. orographic lift and elevated instability).The first event occurred in the Southern Hemisphere and was a late winter case that developed under the influence of underlying orography. Lightning was plentiful in that event (94 cloud-to-ground flashes in the region), but snow accumulations were not significant. Lightning flashes of negative polarity dominated this case, with a mean peak amplitude of -43.2 kA. The second event was a Northern Hemisphere case of elevated convection, with frontogenesis beneath an extended layer of potential instability. Appreciable lightning occurred with this event as well (706 cloud-to-ground flashes in the region), and snow accumulations were significant over a broad area. Lightning flashes of negative polarity dominated this case also, with a mean peak amplitude of -23.7 kA. Each of these events is worthy of further scrutiny, as studies of such storms do not appear often in the literature. Indeed, such warm, subtropical regions are often unprepared for the effects of just a little snow or ice accumulation. Future forecasters can anticipate better such anomalous events by looking for these broad features: 1) significant and well-defined synoptic-scale weather systems at low latitudes, 2) a strong baroclinic zone with a well-defined (≥60 ms-1) jet structure aloft, 3) cold air of appreciable depth and areal extent drawn much closer to the equator than is typical, and 4) a moist neutral to conditionally unstable layer above the frontal zone.
Atmósfera 22(3), 315-330 (2009)