Observations from the TRMM-based Lightning Imaging Sensor are analyzed for variability between land and ocean, geographic regions and different (objectively-defined) convective "regimes". The bulk of the order-of-magnitude differences between land and ocean regional flash rates are accounted for by differences in storm spacing (density) rather than differences in storm flash rates, which only vary by a factor of two on average. Combined with characteristic differences in land/ocean updraft velocities, this strongly suggests that possible lightning-updraft relationships are closer to linearity than strong nonlinearity (contradicting earlier hypotheses). Regional variability in cell density and cell flash rates closely tracks differences in 85 GHz microwave brightness temperatures. Monotonic relationships are found with the gross moist stability of the tropical atmosphere, a large scale "adjusted state" parameter. This strongly suggests that it will be possible, using TRMM observations, to objectively test numerical or theoretical predictions of how mesoscale convective organization interacts with the larger scale environment. Further parameters are suggested for a complete objective definition of tropical convective "regimes".
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