Papers on Climate and Dynamics
Optical observations of terrestrial lightning by the FORTE satellite photodiode detector
Article first published online: 21 SEP 2012
This paper is not subject to U.S. copyright. Published in 2001 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012)
Volume 106, Issue D24, pages 33499–33509, 27 December 2001
How to Cite
2001), Optical observations of terrestrial lightning by the FORTE satellite photodiode detector, J. Geophys. Res., 106(D24), 33499–33509, doi:10.1029/2000JD000190., , , and (
- Issue published online: 21 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 21 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 7 JUN 2001
- Manuscript Received: 27 NOV 2000
We review data from observations of terrestrial lightning obtained by the FORTE satellite between September 1997 and January 2000. A silicon photodiode detector (PDD) records the intensity-time history of transient optical events occurring within its 80° circular field of view. This field of view corresponds to a circle on the Earth's surface having an approximate diameter of 1200 km. We describe the instrument, present examples of the data, explain how the data are screened for false triggers, and review, within the context of previous measurements, the general statistics of peak irradiance, pulse width, and energy associated with the data. We compare the FORTE data with National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) reported cloud-to-ground (CG) strokes and find that the PDD detection efficiency for these CG strokes is ∼6%. Moreover, we infer that FORTE preferentially detects the in-cloud portion of optical lightning signals. Events having inferred peak powers between 108 and 1012 W and optical energy outputs between 103 and 109 J are observed. From a population of nearly 700,000 events we find that the median peak power and median detected optical energy at the source are estimated to be ∼1×109 W and 4.5×105 J, respectively. These values of source peak power and energy are comparable to previous space-based measurements and consistent with aircraft-based and ground-based measurements. The observed median effective pulse width is about 590 microseconds. Further, the pulse widths for CG strokes, reported by NLDN, are inversely proportional to pulse peak power.