Climatology of Transient Luminous Events and Lightning Observed Above Europe and the Mediterranean Sea

Enrico Arnone, Jozsef Bor , Olivier Chanrion, Veronika Barta, Stefano Dietrich, Carl-Fredrik Enell, Thomas Farges, Martin Fullekrug, Antti Kero, Roberto Labanti, Antti Makela , Keren Mezuman, Anna Odzimek, Martin Popek , Marco Prevedelli, Marco Ridolfi, Serge Soula, Oscar van der Velde, Yoav Yair, Torsten Neubert

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In 1999, the first sprites were observed above European thunderstorms using sensitive cameras. Since then, Eurosprite campaigns have been conducted to observe sprites and other transient luminous events (TLEs), expanding into a network covering large parts of Europe and coastal areas. In 2009 through 2013, the number of optical observations of TLEs reached a peak of 2000 per year. Because of this unprecedented number of European observations, it was possible to construct a climatology of 8394 TLEs observed above 1018 thunderstorm systems and study for the first time their distribution and seasonal cycle above Europe and parts of the Mediterranean Sea. The number of TLEs per thunderstorm was found to follow a power law, with less than 10 TLEs for 801 thunderstorms and up to 195 TLEs above the most prolific one. The majority of TLEs were classified as sprites, 641 elves, 280 halos, 70 upward lightning, 2 blue jets and 1 gigantic jet. The climatology shows intense TLE activity during summer over continental areas and in late autumn over coastal areas and sea. The two seasons peak, respectively, in August and November, separated by March and April with almost no TLEs, and a relative minimum around September. The observed TLE activity, i.e. mostly sprites, is shown to be largely consistent with lightning activity, with a 1/1000 of observed TLE-to-lightning ratio in regions with most observations. The overall behaviour is consistent among individual years, making the observed seasonal cycle a robust general feature of TLE activity above Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-199
Number of pages33
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number2
Early online date4 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2020


  • Climatology
  • Europe
  • Ground-based observations
  • Lightning
  • Thunderstorms
  • Transient luminous events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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