The Role of Global Thunderstorm Activity in Modulating Global Cirrus Clouds

J. Saha, C. Price, A. Guha*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cirrus clouds provide a significant radiative forcing on the Earth's climate system. This paper looks at the connection in space and time between monthly mean lightning activity observed from the Lightning Imaging Sensor on board the International Space Station, and the global monthly mean cirrus cloud cover obtained from the MERRA-2 reanalysis product. The correlation coefficient between the global monthly mean cloud optical thickness of the cirrus clouds (clouds at altitudes above the 400 hPa pressure levels) with the monthly mean lightning flash counts is 0.84, implying that monthly mean lightning can explain 70% of monthly variability of the global high cloud optical thickness. In addition, lightning amount explains nearly 60% of the monthly mean global area coverage of cirrus clouds. Given these statistically significant connections between lightning and cirrus clouds, we propose using global lightning data as an additional tool for monitoring monthly variability of cirrus clouds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022GL102667
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number12
StatePublished - 28 Jun 2023


  • cirrus clouds
  • climate forcing
  • cloud optical thickness (COT)
  • lightning
  • lightning imaging sensor-international space station (LIS-ISS)


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