Analysis of thunderstorm and lightning activity associated with sprites observed during the EuroSprite campaigns: two case studies

S. Soula, O. van der Velde, J. Montanyà, Torsten Neubert, Olivier Arnaud Chanrion, M. Ganot

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During the summers of 2003 to 2006 sprites were observed over thunderstorms in France by cameras on mountain tops in Southern France. The observations were part of a larger coordinated effort, the EuroSprite campaigns, with data collected simultaneously from other sources including the French radar network for precipitation structure, Meteosat with images of cloud top temperature and the Météorage network for detection of cloud-to-ground (CG) flash activity. In this paper two storms are analyzed, each producing 27 sprite events. Both storms were identified as Mesoscale Convective Systems (MCS) with a trailing stratiform configuration (ST) and reaching a maximum cloud area of ~ 120,000 km2. Most of the sprites were produced while the stratiform area was clearly developed and during periods of substantial increase of rainfall in regions with radar reflectivity between 30 and 40 dBZ. The sprite-producing periods followed a maximum in the CG lightning activity and were characterized by a low CG flash rate with a high proportion of + CG flashes, typically around 50%. All sprites were associated with + CGs except one which was observed after a − CG as detected by the Météorage network. This − CG was estimated to have − 800 C km charge moment change. The peak current of sprite-producing + CG (SP + CG) flashes was twice the average value of + CGs and close to 60 kA with little variation between the periods of sprite activity. The SP + CG flashes were further characterized by short time intervals before a subsequent CG flash (median value <0.5 s) and with clusters of several CG flashes which suggest that SP + CG flashes often are part of multi-CG flash processes. One case of a lightning process associated with a sprite consisted of 7 CG flashes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAtmospheric Research
Issue number2-4
Pages (from-to)514-528
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009
EventInternational Conference on Atmospheric Electricity - Beijing, China
Duration: 13 Aug 200717 Aug 2007
Conference number: 13


ConferenceInternational Conference on Atmospheric Electricity


  • Sprite
  • Lightning
  • Ground flash
  • Mesoscale Convective System
  • Electric discharge
  • Mesosphere

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