MEDFORD, Ore. -- Lightning is a grave concern each summer to our way of life in Southern Oregon and Northern California.
The National Weather Service office in Medford has created a lightning database that shows the lightning climatology for our region and across the country. The database can aid not only fire crews but also you and your family for when you make your summer plans to know when and where lighting is more common on average.
In the last 30 years, 90 percent of acres burned by wildfires were caused by lightning. "This means big safety, health and economic impacts, so we're very interested in studying lightning patterns. Better understanding it, and we wanted to visualize when and where lightning occurred most in our forecast area." Noel Keene is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Medford. He helped build a nationwide database for lightning in each county, fire zone and within 10 miles of each airport. "Frequency will tell someone how common at least one cloud-to-ground lightning flash is for that one hour and week of the year while totals will tell someone the potential for big lightning events during those hours and weeks of the year," says Keene.
For much of our region, there are two peaks for lightning frequency through the year, one in late spring and the other in July and August. "The summer is where you can really get your big, big lightning events across our forecast area," explains Keene.
This information can help you as you plan hiking or camping trips. It can also help fire crews as they prepare for fire season. "If these agencies know ahead of time what hour and what weeks of the year lightning is most or least likely, I think they can make better decisions. Especially, when it comes to the fact that the bulk of our lightning occurs when vegetation is driest," says Keene.
The National Weather Service will be using the lightning data in the months ahead to study nighttime thunderstorms and why some lightning events trigger more fires than others.
Click the link to check out the lightning database for yourself.