Blue starters∷ Brief upward discharges from an intense Arkansas thunderstorm

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Abstract

This paper documents the first observations of a new stratospheric electrical phenomenon associated with thunderstorms. On the night of 30 June (UT 1 July) 1994, 30 examples of these events, which we have called “blue starters,” were observed in a 6 m 44 s interval above the very energetic Arkansas thunderstorm where blue jets were first observed. The blue starters are distinguished from blue jets by a much lower terminal altitude. They are bright and blue in color, and protrude upward from the cloud top (17–18 km) to a maximum 25.5 km (83,655 ft.) in altitude. All blue starters events were recorded from two small areas near Texarkana, Texas/Arkansas where hail 7.0 cm in diameter was falling. Comparison to cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning flashes revealed: 1. Blue starters were not observed to be coincident with either positive or negative CG flashes, but they do occur in the same general area as negative CG flashes; 2. Cumulative distributions of the negative CG flashes in ±5 s before and after the starter and within a radius of 50 km shows a significant reduction for about 3 s following the event in the two cells where starters and jets were observed. The energy deficit is approximately 109 J. It is possible that blue starters are a short-lived streamer phenomenon.

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