Three years of lightning impulse charge moment change measurements in the United States



[1] We report and analyze 3 years of lightning impulse charge moment change (iCMC) measurements obtained from an automated, real time lightning charge moment change network (CMCN). The CMCN combines U.S. National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) lightning event geolocations with extremely low frequency (≲1 kHz) data from two stations to provide iCMC measurements across the entire United States. Almost 14 million lightning events were measured in the 3 year period. We present the statistical distributions of iCMC versus polarity and NLDN-measured peak current, including corrections for the detection efficiency of the CMCN versus peak current. We find a broad distribution of iCMC for a given peak current, implying that these parameters are at best only weakly correlated. Curiously, the mean iCMC does not monotonically increase with peak current, and in fact, drops for positive CG strokes above +150 kA. For all positive strokes, there is a boundary near 20 C km that separates seemingly distinct populations of high and low iCMC strokes. We also explore the geographic distribution of high iCMC lightning strokes. High iCMC positive strokes occur predominantly in the northern midwest portion of the U.S., with a secondary peak over the gulf stream region just off the U.S. east coast. High iCMC negative strokes are also clustered in the midwest, although somewhat south of most of the high iCMC positive strokes. This is a region far from the locations of maximum occurrence of high peak current negative strokes. Based on assumed iCMC thresholds for sprite production, we estimate that approximately 35,000 positive polarity and 350 negative polarity sprites occur per year over the U.S. land and near-coastal areas. Among other applications, this network is useful for the nowcasting of sprite-producing storms and storm regions.