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Determination of the Electric Field Intensity and Space Charge Density Versus Height Prior to Triggered Lightning
Journal of Geophysical Research
  • Christopher J. Biagi, University of Florida
  • Martin A. Uman, University of Florida
  • Jay Gopalakrishnan, Portland State University
  • J. D. Hill, University of Florida
  • Vladimir A. Rakov, University of Florida
  • T. Ngin, University of Florida
  • Douglas M. Jordan, University of Florida
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Publication Date
  • Space charge -- Density,
  • Electric fields -- Mathematical models,
  • Lightning
We infer the vertical profiles of space charge density and electric field intensity above ground by comparing modeling and measurements of the ground-level electric field changes caused by elevating grounded lightning-triggering wires. The ground-level electric fields at distances of 60 m and 350 m were measured during six wire launches that resulted in triggered lightning. The wires were launched when ground-level electric fields ranged from 3.2 to 7.6 kV m−1 and the triggering heights ranged from 123 to 304 m. From wire launch time to lightning initiation time, the ground-level electric field reduction at 60 m ranged from 2.2 to 3.4 kV m−1, with little ground-level electric field reduction being observed at 350 m. We observed that the triggering heights were inversely proportional to the ground-level electric field when the wires were launched. Our Poisson equation solver simulates the ground-level electric field changes as the grounded wires extend in assumed vertically varying profiles of space charge density and electric field intensity. Our model reproduces the measured ground-level electric field changes when the assumed space charge density decays exponentially with altitude, with ground-level charge densities between 1.5 and 7 nC m−3, space charge exponential decay height constants ranging from 67 to 200 m, and uniform electric field intensities far above the space charge layer ranging from 20 to 60 kV m−1. Our model predicts typical charge densities on the wires of some tens of μC m−1 with milliampere-range currents flowing into the wires from ground to supply the wire charge.

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Citation Information
Biagi, C. J., M. A. Uman, J. Gopalakrishnan, J. D. Hill, V. A. Rakov, T. Ngin, and D. M. Jordan (2011), Determination of the electric field intensity and space charge density versus height prior to triggered lightning, J. Geophys. Res., 116, D15201.