On β2 stepped leaders in negative cloud-to-ground lightning



In their seminal lightning studies using streak cameras, Schonland et al. (1938) identified four negative stepped leader events that they term “β2,” a “rather rare variant of the type β leader”, and in it, “the second and slower stage of the leader is associated with the appearance of one or more fast dart streamers, which travel rapidly down from the cloud along the previously formed track and cease when they have caught up with the slower leader tip.” Seven negative downward leaders that agreed with the description given by Schonland et al. for type β2 were recorded in Tucson, Arizona, USA, and in São José dos Campos, São Paulo, Brazil. All cases were recorded by a high-speed camera operating at 4000 frames per second, and electric field changes were measured for three of them. Their “dart streamers” had speeds between 106 and 107 m s−1, compatible with previous observations of recoil leaders (RLs). Also, during the development of the three cases with correlated electric field changes, it was possible to identify sequences of microsecond-scale pulses preceding the propagation of a dart streamer in the channel. It is proposed that the luminous process that occurs during the development of a type β2 stepped leader is the visible manifestation of one or more RLs that begin inside the cloud and connect to the in-cloud, positive portion of the bipolar, bidirectional leader, and then travel downward to the lower end of the negative stepped leader path.