High-speed video observations of positive lightning flashes to ground

Marcelo M.F. Saba, Wolfgang Schulz, Tom A. Warner, Leandro Z.S. Campos, Carina Schumann, E. Philip Krider, Kenneth L. Cummins, Richard E. Orville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


Although positive lightning flashes to ground are not as frequent as negative flashes, their large amplitudes and destructive characteristics make understanding their parameters an important issue. This study summarizes the characteristics of 103 positive cloud-to-ground (+CG) flashes that have been recorded using high-speed video cameras (up to 11,800 frames per second) in three countries together with time-correlated data provided by lightning location systems (LLS). A large fraction of the +CG flashes (81%) produced just a single stroke, and the average multiplicity was 1.2 strokes per flash. All the subsequent strokes in multiple-stroke +CG flashes created a new ground termination except one. The geometric mean of 21 interstroke time intervals was 94 ms, which is about 1.5 times larger than the average interstroke interval in negative CG flashes (∼60 ms); 75% of the +CG flashes contained at least one long continuing current (LCC) 40 ms, and this percentage is significantly larger than in the negative flashes that produce LCCs (approximately 30%). The median estimated peak current (Ip) for 116 positive strokes that created new ground terminations was 39.4 kA. Positive strokes with a large Ip were usually followed by a LCC, and both of these parameters are threats in lightning protection. The characteristics presented here include the multiplicities of strokes and ground contacts, the percentage of single-stroke flashes, the average interstroke time interval, the durations of the continuing current, and the distributions of Ip, the total flash durations, and the 2-D leader speeds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD24201
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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