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Keywords:

  • Atmospheric electricity;
  • lightning
  • lightning statistics;
  • geo-location;
  • electric field recovery;
  • flash suppression

[1] Lightning discharges are nature's way of neutralizing the electrical buildup in thunderclouds. Thus, if an individual discharge destroys a substantial fraction of the cloud charge, the probability of a subsequent flash is reduced until the cloud charge separation rebuilds. The temporal pattern of lightning activity in a localized region may thus inherently be a proxy measure of the corresponding timescales for charge separation and electric field buildup processes. We present a statistical technique to bring out this effect (as well as the subsequent recovery) using lightning geo-location data, in this case with data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) and from the GLD360 Network. We use this statistical method to show that a lightning flash can remove an appreciable fraction of the built up charge, affecting the neighboring lightning activity for tens of seconds within a ∼ 10 km radius. We find that our results correlate with timescales of electric field buildup in storms and suggest that the proposed statistical tool could be used to study the electrification of storms on a global scale. We find that this flash suppression effect is a strong function of flash type, flash polarity, cloud-to-ground flash multiplicity, the geographic location of lightning, and is proportional to NLDN model-derived peak stroke current. We characterize the spatial and temporal extent of the suppression effect as a function of these parameters and discuss various applications of our findings.