Television Image of a Large Upward Electrical Discharge Above a Thunderstorm System

  • Franz R
  • Nemzek R
  • Winckler J
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An image of an unusual luminous electrical discharge over a thunderstorm 250 kilometers from the observing site has been obtained with a low-light-level television camera. The discharge began at the cloud tops at 14 kilometers and extended into the clear air 20 kilometers higher. The image, which had a duration of less than 30 milliseconds,resembled two jets or fountains and was probably caused by two localizd electric charge concentrations at the cloud tops. Large upward discharges may create a hazard for aircraft and rocket launches and, by penetrating into the ionosphere, may initiate whistler waves and other effects on a magnetospheric scale. Such upward electrical discharges may account for unexplained photometric observations of distant lightning events that showed a low rise rate of the luminous pulse and no electromagnetic sferic pulse of the type that accompanies cloud-to-earth lightning strokes. An unusually high rate of such photometric events was recorded during the night of 22 to 23 September 1989 during a storm associated with hurricane Hugo.

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  • R. C. Franz

  • R. J. Nemzek

  • J. R. Winckler

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