Upward lightning observations from towers in Rapid City, South Dakota and comparison with National Lightning Detection Network data, 2004–2010

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Abstract

[1] We report on upward lightning observations from ten tall towers (91–191 m) in Rapid City, South Dakota, USA and compare with National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) data. A total of 81 upward flashes were observed from 2004–2010 using GPS time-stamped optical sensors, and in all but one case, visible flash activity preceded the development of the upward leaders. Time-correlated analysis showed that the NLDN recorded an event within 50 km of towers and within 500 ms prior to upward leader development from the tower(s) for 83% (67/81) of the upward flashes. A preceding positive cloud-to-ground stroke (+CG) was detected in 57% (46/81) of the cases, and a preceding positive intracloud flash (+IC) in 23% (19/81) of the cases. However, 8 of the 19 NLDN-indicated +IC events were actually +CG strokes based on optical observations. Preceding negative intracloud flashes (−IC) were recorded for 2% (2/81) of the cases. Analysis also showed that for 44% (36/81) of the upward flashes, the NLDN reported subsequent negative cloud-to-ground (−CG) strokes and/or −IC events at one or more tower locations. Of the 151 subsequent events, 70% (105/151) were −CG reports and 30% (46/151) were listed as −IC events. The geometric mean/median location accuracy and peak current for subsequent events were 194 m/206 m and −12.9 kA/−12.4 kA respectively. These correlated observations suggest that a majority of the upward lightning flashes were triggered by a preceding flash with the dominant triggering type being the +CG flash.

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