Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Statistical patterns in the location of natural lightning

Authors

  • F. G. Zoghzoghy,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., USA
    • Corresponding author: F. G. Zoghzoghy, M. B. Cohen, R. K. Said, U. S. Inan, Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. (fadiz@stanford.edu)

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  • M. B. Cohen,

    1. Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., USA
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  • R. K. Said,

    1. Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., USA
    2. Vaisala Inc., Boulder Operations, Louisville, Colo., USA
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  • U. S. Inan

    1. Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif., USA
    2. Electrical Engineering Department, Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey
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Abstract

[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.

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