Long-range lightning geolocation using a VLF radio atmospheric waveform bank

R. K. Said, U. S. Inan, K. L. Cummins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Lightning discharges generate broadband electromagnetic pulses with a peak component in the very low frequency (VLF; 3-30 kHz) range. VLF waves propagate through the Earth-ionosphere waveguide with relatively low attenuation, enabling the detection of these radio atmospherics at great distances from the lightning discharge. A new technique of long-range (≤6000 km) global lightning geolocation via sferic detection is presented. This new technique catalogs the dominant variation in expected received waveforms in a set of waveform banks, which are then used to estimate the propagation distance and accurately determine the arrival time. Using three sensors in a trial network, this new technique is used to demonstrate a median accuracy of 1-4 km, depending on the time of day. An overall cloud-to-ground (CG) stroke detection efficiency between ∼40 and 60% is estimated by correlating individual lightning stroke events to data from the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN). Additional events reported by the trial network are shown to have a tight spatial clustering to storm clusters identified by NLDN, suggesting that many of the unmatched events correspond to weak cloud-to-ground strokes, M components, or cloud pulses. Exploiting an empirical correlation between peak VLF field strength and peak current values reported by NLDN, we also provide unvalidated estimates of the peak current and lightning channel polarity. The trial network does not distinguish between cloud and ground discharges, so these peak current estimates only relate to an Earth-referenced channel current for the subset of reported events that are return strokes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD23108
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number23
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Long-range lightning geolocation using a VLF radio atmospheric waveform bank'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this