Severe convective storms across Europe and the United States. Part I: Climatology of lightning, large hail, severe wind, and tornadoes

Mateusz Taszarek, John T. Allen, Pieter Groenemeijer, Roger Edwards, Harold E. Brooks, Vanna Chmielewski, Sven Erik Enno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


As lightning-detection records lengthen and the efficiency of severe weather reporting increases, more accurate climatologies of convective hazards can be constructed. In this study we aggregate flashes from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and Arrival Time Difference long-range lightning detection network (ATDnet) with severe weather reports from the European Severe Weather Database (ESWD) and Storm Prediction Center (SPC) Storm Data on a common grid of 0.258 and 1-h steps. Each year approximately 75–200 thunderstorm hours occur over the southwestern, central, and eastern United States, with a peak over Florida (200–250 h). The activity over the majority of Europe ranges from 15 to 100 h, with peaks over Italy and mountains (Pyrenees, Alps, Carpathians, Dinaric Alps; 100–150 h). The highest convective activity over continental Europe occurs during summer and over the Mediterranean during autumn. The United States peak for tornadoes and large hail reports is in spring, preceding the maximum of lightning and severe wind reports by 1–2 months. Convective hazards occur typically in the late afternoon, with the exception of the Midwest and Great Plains, where mesoscale convective systems shift the peak lightning threat to the night. The severe wind threat is delayed by 1–2 h compared to hail and tornadoes. The fraction of nocturnal lightning over land ranges from 15% to 30% with the lowest values observed over Florida and mountains (;10%). Wintertime lightning shares the highest fraction of severe weather. Compared to Europe, extreme events are considerably more frequent over the United States, with maximum activity over the Great Plains. However, the threat over Europe should not be underestimated, as severe weather outbreaks with damaging winds, very large hail, and significant tornadoes occasionally occur over densely populated areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10239-10261
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Climate
Issue number23
StatePublished - Nov 3 2020


  • Climatology
  • Convective storms
  • Hail
  • Lightning
  • Seasonal cycle
  • Tornadoes


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