Source altitudes of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes produced by lightning leaders

Wei Xu, Sebastien Celestin, Victor P. Pasko

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    47 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are energetic photon bursts observed from satellites and associated with lightning activity. Comparison between calculations based on the model of relativistic runaway electron avalanches (RREA) in large-scale weak electric field in thunderstorms and satellite measurements usually shows that the photon spectrum is consistent with source altitudes around 15 km. However, recent observations have located intra-cloud lightning (IC) discharges responsible for TGFs much deeper in the atmosphere (at altitudes ∼10 km). In the present work, we show that the TGF spectrum as produced by acceleration of electrons in the strong electric field of stepping IC leaders is consistent with the lower altitudes recently discovered. This study reconciles observations and measurements by setting new altitudes for the TGF sources based on mechanism of direct acceleration of electrons in the lightning leader field. Moreover, the photon source beaming geometry is consistently determined from the geometry of electric field lines produced by the lightning leader.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberL08801
    JournalGeophysical Research Letters
    Volume39
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Apr 1 2012

    Fingerprint

    lightning
    flash
    gamma rays
    electric field
    electron
    electric fields
    photons
    electron avalanche
    geometry
    thunderstorms
    low altitude
    avalanche
    thunderstorm
    bursts
    electrons
    energetics
    atmospheres
    atmosphere

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Geophysics
    • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

    Cite this

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    abstract = "Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are energetic photon bursts observed from satellites and associated with lightning activity. Comparison between calculations based on the model of relativistic runaway electron avalanches (RREA) in large-scale weak electric field in thunderstorms and satellite measurements usually shows that the photon spectrum is consistent with source altitudes around 15 km. However, recent observations have located intra-cloud lightning (IC) discharges responsible for TGFs much deeper in the atmosphere (at altitudes ∼10 km). In the present work, we show that the TGF spectrum as produced by acceleration of electrons in the strong electric field of stepping IC leaders is consistent with the lower altitudes recently discovered. This study reconciles observations and measurements by setting new altitudes for the TGF sources based on mechanism of direct acceleration of electrons in the lightning leader field. Moreover, the photon source beaming geometry is consistently determined from the geometry of electric field lines produced by the lightning leader.",
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    Source altitudes of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes produced by lightning leaders. / Xu, Wei; Celestin, Sebastien; Pasko, Victor P.

    In: Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, No. 8, L08801, 01.04.2012.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Source altitudes of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes produced by lightning leaders

    AU - Xu, Wei

    AU - Celestin, Sebastien

    AU - Pasko, Victor P.

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    Y1 - 2012/4/1

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    AB - Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are energetic photon bursts observed from satellites and associated with lightning activity. Comparison between calculations based on the model of relativistic runaway electron avalanches (RREA) in large-scale weak electric field in thunderstorms and satellite measurements usually shows that the photon spectrum is consistent with source altitudes around 15 km. However, recent observations have located intra-cloud lightning (IC) discharges responsible for TGFs much deeper in the atmosphere (at altitudes ∼10 km). In the present work, we show that the TGF spectrum as produced by acceleration of electrons in the strong electric field of stepping IC leaders is consistent with the lower altitudes recently discovered. This study reconciles observations and measurements by setting new altitudes for the TGF sources based on mechanism of direct acceleration of electrons in the lightning leader field. Moreover, the photon source beaming geometry is consistently determined from the geometry of electric field lines produced by the lightning leader.

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