News Release

Scientists locate parent lightning strokes of sprites

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences


image: This is a bright red sprite with multiple elements observed over an MCS on the Great Plains of the United States. view more 

Credit: Gaopeng Lu

Thunderstorms can generate various forms of transient luminous events, such as red sprites, gigantic jets, and blue jets, through the charge transfer involved in the lightning forged inside thunderclouds.

Based on the Lightning Effects Research Platform (LERP), a research team from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences reported the location results for the parent lightning strokes of more than 30 red sprites observed over an asymmetric mesoscale convective system (MCS) on July 30, 2015 in Shandong Province, China, with a long-baseline lightning location network of very-low-frequency/low-frequency magnetic field sensors.

"This is probably the most productive sprite-producing thunderstorm system ever reported in China," says Dr. LU Gaopeng, the corresponding author of the study.

The results showed that almost all of these cloud-to-ground (CG) strokes were produced during the mature stage of the MCS, and were predominantly located in the trailing stratiform region.

This finding was similar to analyses of typical sprite-productive MCSs in North America and Europe. Comparison between the location results for the sprite-producing CG strokes and those provided by the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) indicated that the location accuracy of the WWLLN for intense CG strokes in Shandong Province was typically within 10 km.

This result was generally consistent with the result based on analysis of more than 2000 sprite-producing CG strokes in the continental United States. Also, the authors analyzed two cases where some minor lightning discharges in the parent flash of sprites could also be located, providing an approach to confine the thundercloud region tapped by the sprite-producing CG strokes.


The study was published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

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