Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) have been correlated with an early development stage of high altitude positive intracloud (+IC) flashes in which the negative leader propagates up toward the upper positive charge region, while the positive leader propagates down toward the lower negative charge region. The resultant bidirectional leaders develop electrical potential differences in the vicinity of their heads with respect to the ambient potential distribution created by the thundercloud charges. These potential differences are believed to be of essential importance for the generation of TGFs. Using electrostatic calculations and a three-dimensional Cartesian fractal model, we quantify these potential differences produced in a developing +IC lightning discharge for given thunderstorm electric configurations. We present a case of a +IC lightning discharge in a realistic thunderstorm configuration that leads to a very high (∼300 MV) potential difference and show how a delay in the development of the negative leader with respect to the positive one in a bidirectional leader system can facilitate a high potential difference in the negative leader head region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Space and Planetary Science