Joe’s Weather World: Where is the worst lightning in the Metro every year and when (FRI-2/14)

Weather Blog

So this blog will be a bit different and is something that IF you have interests in thunderstorm trends…lightning trends in particular, you may want to bookmark for future reading and reference.

I came across some NOAA data the other day with detailed information about the time of day…time of year…and frequency of lightning strikes in every county across the US…so obviously I wanted to check out the KC Metro. I have data through for all counties in the region so FB or email me for the counties outside the Metro and I’ll get that information too you.

I realize that the data isn’t exactly what you’re thinking about on a cold winter morning…but if I don’t write/show it now…I’ll probably forget about it in the Spring when the timing warrants it plus our weather will be settling down a bit over the weekend.


Today: Sunny skies with clouds coming from the west later today. Highs in the upper 20s. A bit more of a breeze this afternoon making it feel chillier

Tonight: Variable clouds>cloudy skies and not as cold with steady temperatures in the mid 20s

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy and breezy with highs in the lower 40s

Sunday: Milder with highs in the closer to 50° but warmer if we have less snow on the ground.



So I’ll skip the day to day weather stuff for this blog.

Let’s talk lightning! Each year the region receives hundreds of thunderstorms. Their just part of the weather around these parts from the spring through the fall. The time of the year where we see the most lightning is typically in the later spring through mid summer months.

Each year dozens are killed nationwide from lightning. Last year 20 lost their lives…

In previous years…doubled that many lost their lives.

Of the deaths last year…many were doing outside activities like fishing…running…camping etc.

Locally our region sees 100s of thousands of lighting strikes decade. Some storms have thousands over their lifetime and some of these clusters of storms can live for hours on end.

For the 1st time data is available showing the particulars of lightning frequency and and timing during the day. It’s from NOAA and I want to share it with you.

All the data is via the National Lightning Display Network/Vaisala

Let’s start with Platte County, MO. The data below shows the percentage of years with at least one lightning strike for a particular week of the year between a 1 hour time frame.

So the data above reveals that the highest chance of having at least one lightning strike in Platte Co would be the week of June 11th>17th between 9-10 PM. The frequency was 57% in the 30 years covered by the data…through 2017.

In those 30 years though…well over 175,000 strikes have been recorded there with the most happening between 8/20 and 8/26 (cumulative through the day) but again for specific hours there are actually more active times especially in mid June

Now lets go into Clay County…

For Clay County the most frequent time for lightning is the week of June 11th>17th from 6-7PM

Over 191,000 strikes…with the biggest week in terms of sheer numbers being the week of July 16th>22nd.

Here is the information from Wyandotte Co…fewer strikes overall because of the smaller size of the county compared to other larger counties in the region. There also wasn’t one time period that stood out…several one hour maxes of 37 were noted through the year

In terms of the shear volume of strikes though 70,000 is nothing to sneeze at…August 20th>26th was the big week overall.

In Johnson Co, KS…

June 11th>17th between 9-10 PM was the winner with the highest chance of at least one strike

What is interesting is the uptick in the frequency of lightning over the study period…over 210,000 strikes

The week of August 20th>26th was big in JOCO while the that week between 10-11PM recorded the most overall strikes with close to 5000.


The week of August 20th>26th between 12-1AM had the highest risk of at least one strike.

However with close to 4,000 actual cumulative strikes the week of 8/27>9/2 was a standout. Of major note is the total number in JACO with over 290,000 strikes in the study period.

Cass County had over 315,000 strikes

Johnson Co, MO had over 323,000 strikes.

Miami County had over 255,000

Douglas Co had over 220,000 strikes in the study period.

Again I have all this data for the region as a whole.

So a question…why is there more lightning in the Metro in the southern counties as opposed to the northern counties…the difference from Buchanon Co (162,000) to Johson Co MO is close to 200,000 strikes or more than 6600 per year. Could the heat island effect of the Metro overall play a role in this…either creating storms or making them stronger to generate more lightning then as they move away the increase the frequency of strikes downwind of the Metro? Just a thought.

Anyway this is great information for all emergency managers and others with outside interests…county fair organizers etc. and in general

There are caveats to the data…it is considered “experimental” and in reading through some of the research notes there has been an increase in the quality of reporting from the late 80s to the later time frame of the data (2010s)

I might put together a story on this for the spring and our severe weather week.


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