John T. Abatzoglou, Timothy J. Brown
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Behavior

Record updated: May 31, 2018
NRFSN number: 15696

Summertime cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are responsible for the majority of wildfire ignitions across vast sections of the seasonally dry western United States. In this study, a strong connection between active phases of the Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) and regional summertime lightning activity was found across the interior western United States. This intraseasonal mode of lightning activity emanates northward from the desert Southwest across the Great Basin and into the northern Rocky Mountains. The MJO is shown to provide favorable conditions for the northward propagation of widespread lightning activity through the amplification of the upper-level ridge over the western United States and the development of midtropospheric instability. Given the relative predictability of the MJO with long lead times, results allude to the potential for intraseasonal predictability of lightning activity and proactive fire management planning.


Abatzoglou JT, Brown TJ. 2009. Influence of the Madden Julian Oscillation on summertime cloud-to-ground lightning activity over the continental US. Monthly Weather Review 137 (October). DOI 10.1175/2009MWR3019.1.

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