Formation of single and double-headed streamers in sprite-halo events

Authors

  • Jianqi Qin,

    1. Communications and Space Sciences Laboratory, Department of Electrical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
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  • Sebastien Celestin,

    1. Communications and Space Sciences Laboratory, Department of Electrical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
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  • Victor P. Pasko

    1. Communications and Space Sciences Laboratory, Department of Electrical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA
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Abstract

[1] Sprite streamers initiate from electron inhomogeneities in the lower ionosphere and undergo significant acceleration and expansion growth before their optical emissions become observable. It is shown that electron inhomogeneities located at high altitudes in the region of sprite halo, which may be sub-visual, only transform into single-headed downward streamers, and corresponding upward streamers quickly merge into the sprite halo due to fast relaxation of lightning-induced electric field. In contrast, the inhomogeneities located at and below the lower edge of the sprite halo, where a high field region persists significantly longer, can transform into double-headed streamers. The upward negative streamer heads start from the existing bright structures in the channel of previous downward streamers as observed by Cummer et al. (2006), McHarg et al. (2007), and Stenbaek-Nielsen and McHarg (2008) because at low altitudes, electron density enhancements associated with these channels are much stronger than in preexisting inhomogeneities in the ambient ionosphere.

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