Features of the Electric Fields Generated by Lightning with Special Attention to Positive Ground Flashes

  • Date:
  • Location: Häggsalen, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Johari, Dalina
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Elektricitetslära
  • Contact person: Johari, Dalina
  • Disputation

This thesis focuses on the main processes in positive ground flashes and the distant lightning environment for both positive and negative ground flashes. It presents the characteristics of the preliminary breakdown pulses (PBPs), the characteristics of the electric field pulses observed during leader propagation, and the characteristics of the electric fields produced by the first and the subsequent return strokes. It also features the observations of distant positive and negative ground flashes at distances up to 1000 km. The results were based on electric field measurements conducted remotely during summer thunderstorms in Sweden in 2014.

We found that the majority of the positive ground flashes were preceded by PBPs. Some were preceded by more than one PBP train, and the parameter values for the subsequent PBP trains were found to be smaller than the values for the first PBP train. Three types of PBPs were also identified. The results suggest that the PBPs in positive ground flashes during summer thunderstorms in Sweden are weak, and the inverted dipole charge cloud configuration is consistent with our observation.

A small percentage of these positive ground flashes were observed to be preceded by pronounced leader pulses. The presence of these pulses suggests that the leaders propagate in a stepped manner. We inferred that these pulses were due to the upward-connecting negative leader since their characteristics were similar to those of a negative stepped leader. On the basis of the leader pulses’ time of initiation and the average speed of the leader, we estimated the distance travelled by the leader. One case of positive return stroke preceded by negative leader pulses was also observed, and the occurrence of these pulses was the first in positive ground flashes to be reported.

The majority of these positive ground flashes were found to be single-stroke. Comparison between the first and the subsequent return strokes showed that the average durations of the subsequent stroke parameters were smaller than that of the first strokes. The distances reported by the lightning location system suggest that the subsequent strokes probably created new terminations to ground. Two possible reasons were given to explain the reason for the shorter duration of the subsequent return strokes parameters compared to the first strokes.

Finally, observations of distant positive and negative ground flashes showed that the electric field waveforms have a typical shape, like a distorted ‘W’ (or distorted ‘M’ for negative ground flashes) followed by small oscillations. These small oscillations were more pronounced in negative ground flashes, especially at a greater distance. The heights of the ionospheric reflections estimated for both ground flashes were found to likely correspond to a D-layer of the ionosphere. Two possible reasons were suggested for the small oscillations observed in the waveforms.