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Keywords:

  • gigantic jet;
  • supercell;
  • lightning

[1] Two low-light cameras near Marfa, Texas, recorded a gigantic jet over northern Mexico on 13 May 2005 at approximately 0423:50 UTC. Assuming that the farthest of two candidate storm systems was its source, the bright lower channel ended in a fork at around 50–59 km height with the very dim upper branches extended to 69–80 km altitude. During the time window containing the jet, extremely low frequency magnetic field recordings show that there was no fast charge moment change larger than 50 coulomb times kilometers (C km) but there was a larger and slower charge moment change of 520 C km over 70 ms. The likely parent thunderstorm was a high-precipitation supercell cluster containing a persistent mesocyclone, with radar echo tops of at least 17 km. However, photogrammetric analysis suggests that the gigantic jet occurred over the forward flank downdraft region with echo tops of 14 km. This part of the supercell may have had an inverted-polarity charge configuration as evidenced by positive cloud-to-ground lightning flashes (+CG) dominating over negative flashes (−CG), while −CGs occurred under the downwind anvil. Four minutes before the gigantic jet, −CG activity practically ceased in this area, while +CG rates increased, culminating during the 20 s leading up to the gigantic jet with four National Lightning Detection Network–detected +CGs. A relative lull in lightning activity of both polarities was observed for up to 1.5 min after the gigantic jet. The maturing storm subsequently produced 30 sprites between 0454 and 0820 UTC, some associated with extremely large impulse charge moment change values.