Comparison of Narrow Bipolar Events with Ordinary Lightning as Proxies for Severe Convection

Jacobson, Abram R.; Heavner, Mathew J.
May 2005
Monthly Weather Review;May2005, Vol. 133 Issue 5, p1144
Academic Journal
Narrow bipolar events (NBEs) are a recently studied intracloud electrical-discharge process. It is speculated that an NBE is instigated by the extensive atmospheric shower of an energetic cosmic ray. NBEs cause significant relaxation of the charge separation within the electrified cloud in a short time, on the order of 10 μs. The current flow causes radiation of a distinctive “bipolar” low-frequency/very low frequency signal that can be recorded at locations on earth up to thousands of kilometers from the source. NBEs are preceded/accompanied by the most powerful very high frequency radio emissions seen in any kind of lightning. These intense pulsed radio emissions have been routinely detected with satellite-borne radio receivers in space. Owing to their easy detection and recognition, NBEs might be a useful remote sensing proxy for space-based global, near–real time remote sensing. However, in order for that potential to be realized, NBEs must be shown to be associated, as is ordinary lightning, with severe tropospheric convection, rather than to be just a curiosity of cosmic-ray–atmosphere interactions. This question is addressed with a detailed comparison of NBEs and ordinary lightning using a ground-based lightning-transient research facility that records signals from both ordinary lightning and NBEs, the Los Alamos Sferic-waveform Array (LASA), based in Florida. First, the data from LASA are internally compared to examine the relationship of NBEs and ordinary lightning in both position and time. Second, the relationship of both NBEs and ordinary lightning to simultaneous infrared cloud imagery is examined [from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-East (GOES-East)] in order to infer the relative affinities of NBEs and ordinary lightning for cloud signatures that are consistent with severe convection.


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