Lightning – from Its Base to Space

Lightning has been studied for centuries with surprisingly meager progress since the early breakthroughs of Franklin. There are numerous reasons for this lack of progress: lightning is complex, it is very energetic with large peak power - hard for in-situ probes to survive, it is spatially and temporally sparse – hard to place a sensor in an optimal location. However, modern technological advances and innovations have led to new remote sensing capabilities that are starting to peal back layersleading to improved understanding, while at the same time, revealing new mysteries.

With better understanding of how clouds electrify and the realization that lightning dissipates most of the cloud generated electrical energy, remote detection of lightning has become an increasingly important means for monitoring storm development and severity. Improvements in ground-based lightning location networks have lead to the ability to locate both intra-cloud and cloud to ground lightning on a nearly global basis. Short-range networks now have the ability to accurately map lightning channels in three dimensions. The launch of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) has resulted the ability to continuously observe lightning activity with very high detection efficiency over large regions of the earth.

This presentation will address our present understanding on how clouds generate electrical energy and how lightning in turn dissipates this energy as well as addressing some of the characteristic of lightning channels. It will also discuss a few of the remaining mysteries in lightning physics and some of the new techniques being employed to address them. In addition, some exciting GLM data will be presented.

26/04/2018 - 12:30
Prof. Hugh Christian
Earth System Science Center,University of Alabama in Huntsville, USA