Charge rearrangement deduced from nearby electric field measurements of an intracloud flash with K‒changes


Corresponding author: W. W. Hager, Department of Mathematics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. (


[1] An intracloud flash near Langmuir Laboratory is analyzed to determine the net rearrangement of charge. The analysis employed data from a balloon borne electric field sensor, or Esonde, that was within a few hundred meters of the lightning channel, data from a similar Esonde on a mountain about 6.4 km from the balloon, and data from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology Lightning Mapping Array (LMA). The recovery of the charge transport required the solution of Poisson's equation over the mountainous terrain surrounding Langmuir Laboratory and the solution of a vastly under‒determined system of equations. The charge movement is analyzed using a new smooth charge transport model that incorporates constraints in the least squares fitting process through the use of penalty terms to smooth the charge movement and prevent data overfitting. The electric field measurements were consistent with about 26% of the negative charge being transported to the end of the channel, 36% deposited along the channel in the positive region, 8% deposited near the start of the channel in the positive region, and 30% deposited in another positive region several kilometers beneath the main channel. The transport of negative charge to a lower positive region occurred during the K‒processes when some negative charge was also deposited along the main channel in the upper positive region. Hence, the charge transport process during the K‒processes amounted to a tripolar charge rearrangement where the charge from the negative region was transported to two distinct positive regions, the positive region along the main channel and a lower positive region beneath the main channel. High altitude, widely scattered LMA sources beyond the end of the main channel could indicate the existence of streamers which transported the end‒of‒channel charge into the surrounding volume. Although the LMA showed the development of two upper channels, the charge transport analysis showed that measurable charge transport only occurred on one of the channels. The channel that did not transport charge was missing the high altitude, widely scattered LMA sources seen at the end of the channel that carried charge.