Evolution of lightning in an isolated hailstorm of moderate size in the tropics



[1] Evolution of lightning activity in a tropical hailstorm of moderate size that developed in the premonsoon season at Pune (18°32′N, 73°51′E, 559 m above sea level) is studied from the measurements of surface electric field, the Maxwell current and thunder. Total flash rate is counted from the electric field record, and the cloud-to-ground (CG) flash rate is estimated from the visual observations. Precise timings of their occurrence were confirmed from the observations of overshoot in the Maxwell current records. The storm exhibited an almost constant rate of one CG flash every 1 to 2 min over the whole life time of the storm. The ratio of intracloud (IC) to CG flashes (IC/CG) increased with the increase in total flash rate. In the convective stage of the storm, field changes from consecutive flashes were generally found to alternate in polarity. Moreover, in this stage, field changes occur in pairs, the first field change of each pair being of negative polarity and the second one of positive polarity. The two field changes in a pair occur with an average time difference of 14.3 ± 8.4 s while two consecutive pairs appear after 29.3 ± 9.1 s. In between the convective and mature stages, our observations suggest the occurrence of the phenomenon of rain gush and the field excursion associated with falling precipitation. Development of the mature stage was marked with rapid transitions in the surface electric field and the Maxwell current polarities from negative to positive. Further, total flash rate and IC/CG ratio sharply increase, and the lightning-induced electric field changes become almost exclusively of negative polarity. Observations suggest possibly a lifting up of the charging region in mature stage of the storm. The dissipating stage of the storm witnessed hail and rain showers, sharp transition of electric field and the Maxwell current from positive to negative polarity and occurrence of a few positive CG discharges. Our observations are consistent with the general belief that that some lightning flashes, by neutralizing and depositing charge in the region of opposite polarity, change the charge distribution so as to trigger another discharge in the storm.