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A study of lightning flash initiation prior to the first initial breakdown pulse

Marshall, Thomas, Bandara, Sampath, Karunarathne, Nilmini, Karunarathne, Sumedhe, Kolmasova, Ivana, Siedlecki, Raymond, Stolzenburg, Maribeth
Atmospheric research 2019 v.217 pp. 10-23
electric field, lightning, Mississippi
This study examines the initiation of two intracloud (IC) and two cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning flashes using electric field change (FA) sensors and VHF (LogRF) sensors located at seven sites near Oxford, Mississippi, USA. For each flash the initiating event caused a pulse in the LogRF data and started an Initial E-Change (IEC) in the FA data. The initiating LogRF pulses had powers <1 W and durations of ~1 μs. Numerous LogRF pulses occurred during each IEC; these pulses had durations ≤3 μs. Fewer FA pulses occurred during each IEC; these pulses had durations of ≤7 μs. During each IEC, a few of the LogRF pulses were coincident with a FA pulse, and most such pairs of pulses enhanced the IEC; no IEC enhancing events occurred without such a coincident pair. Each flash had 1 or 2 IEC enhancing events soon after the initiating event and 1 or 2 enhancing events shortly before the first classic initial breakdown (IB) pulse occurred. The point dipole moments and durations of IECs of the two IC flashes were (–520C m, 620 μs) and (–770C m, 1790 μs) and for the two CG flashes were (9C m, 124 μs) and (36C m, 130 μs). We speculate that the LogRF events were positive corona streamers, that enhancing events occurred when a new streamer extended a previous streamer path, and that this process during the flash initiation developed a nascent channel needed for the negative breakdown of the IB pulses.