Lightning morphology and impulse charge moment change of high peak current negative strokes


Journal Article

We have analyzed very high frequency lightning mapping observations and remote magnetic field measurements to investigate connections between lightning morphology and impulse charge moment change (iCMC) of negative cloud-to-ground (CG) strokes with high estimated peak currents. Four lightning morphologies are identified for a total of 2126 strokes within optimum detection range of the North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array, and statistical iCMC distributions are given for each of these types. Almost all (>90%) of the largest impulse charge moments (greater than -200 C km in this data set) are not produced by strokes in ordinary negative CG flashes. Instead, negative strokes with the largest iCMCs are almost exclusively associated with two unusual flash types that both initially develop as positive (normal) intracloud lightning. In the first type the negative stroke with high iCMCs results from a negative leader that descends from the midlevel negative charge region after the upper level negative leader ceases propagating. In the second type, the upper level negative leader of the intracloud lightning progresses toward ground as a so-called bolt from the blue to generate the negative stroke. Measurements of strokes associated with four negative polarity sprites suggest that all four were most likely produced in the first unusual lightning type. Our results highlight that estimated peak current and impulse charge transfer are not always well correlated and that the in-cloud lightning structure strongly influences charge transfer on short time scales in negative CG strokes. Copyright © 2012 by the American Geophysical Union.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lu, G; Cummer, SA; Blakeslee, RJ; Weiss, S; Beasley, WH

Published Date

  • January 1, 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 117 / 4

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0148-0227

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1029/2011JD016890

Citation Source

  • Scopus