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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Texas A&M Research Foundation
  • Richard E Orville
  • (979) 845-9244
Award Date:09/03/2008
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 412,051
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 412,051
  • FY 2008=$171,402
  • FY 2010=$121,543
  • FY 2009=$119,106
Start Date:09/01/2008
End Date:08/31/2013
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Digital High-Speed Spectroscopic Lightning Studies
Federal Award ID Number:0813672
DUNS ID:078592789
Parent DUNS ID:078592789
Program:Physical & Dynamic Meteorology

Awardee Location

Street:400 Harvey Mitchell Parkway, S
City:College Station
County:College Station
Awardee Cong. District:17

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Texas A&M University
Street:400 Harvey Mitchell Pkwy South
City:College Station
County:College Station
Cong. District:17

Abstract at Time of Award

A digital camera capable of 5400 frame-per-second time resolution will be equipped with diffraction gratings previously built by the investigator to document optical emissions from naturally occurring lightning flashes beneath thunderstorms. Spectral data will be obtained in the 380-850 nm range from the entire visible portion of lightning channels encompassing flash elements that may include return strokes, stepped and dart leaders, M-strokes, and episodes of "continuing current" (thought to be responsible for a disproportionate amount of lightning damage to structures and equipment) at spatial and temporal resolutions of 10's of meters and microseconds, respectively. These data will be analyzed to provide measures of channel temperature, electron density, and other thermodynamic information. Observing activities will be conducted during the climatological springtime thunderstorm maximum at a primary site located at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, and during the off-season at the principal investigator's home institution (Texas A&M University) in southern Texas. Extensive supporting meteorological facilities and special measurements are available at the Oklahoma site, and include finely resolved (nanosecond-scale) optical imaging of lightning channels recorded by another NSF-supported investigator based at the University of Oklahoma. Both sites are encompassed by the National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) as well as more specialized lightning mapping array (LMA) equipment. Together, these ancillary systems will provide contextual 4D information on lightning channel location, geometry and propagation (both visible and in-cloud), as well as the polarity, estimated peak current and flash multiplicity (i.e. number of return strokes) for lightning channels reaching the ground. The intellectual merit of this research centers upon improved understanding of the spectroscopically-derived properties of natural lighting viewed at fine spatial and temporal resolution, which will lead to improved understanding of the physics of natural lightning. Additional insights are also possible concerning lightning's contribution to key atmospheric chemical processes. Broader impacts of this work will include training of university graduate and undergraduate students, outreach to K-12 educational institutions, and increased collaboration between multiple university and government facilities involved in lighting research.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Warner, T. A., R. E. Orville, J. L. Marshall, and K. Huggins "Spectral (600â??1050 nm) time exposures (99.6 μs) of a lightning stepped leader" J Geophysical Research Atmospheres, v., 2011, p.. doi:10.1029/2011JD015663 

Stolzenburg, M., T. C. Marshall, S. Karunarathne, N. Karunarathna, T, A. Warner, and R. E. Orville "Stepped-to-dart leaders preceding lightning return strokes" J. Geophys. Res., v.118, 2013, p.doi: 10.1. doi:doi: 10.1002/jgrd.50706 

Warner, T. A. and R. E. Orville "Observations of simultaneous upward lightning leaders from multiple tall structures" J. Atmos. Res, v., 2012, p.. doi:doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2011.07.004 

4. Saba, M., W. Schulz, T. Warner, S. Campos, C. Schumann, E. Krider, K. Cummins, and R. Orville "High-speed video observations of positive lightning flashes to ground" J Geophysical Research, v., 2010, p.. doi:10.1029/2010JD014330 

Stolzenburg, M., T. C. Marshall, S. Karunarathne, N. Karunarathna, T. A. Warner, R. E. Orville, and H.-D. Betz, "Strokes of upward illumination occurring within a few milliseconds after typical lightning return strokes" J. Geophys. Res, v.117, 2012, p.doi:10.10. doi:doi:10.1029/2012JD017654. 

Karunarathne, S., T. Marshall, M. Stolzenburg, N. Karunarathna, L. Vickers, T. A. Warner, and R. E. Orville "Locating Initial Breakdown Pulses using Electric Field Change Network" J. Geophys. Research, v.117, 2012, p.. doi:DOI: 10.1002/jgrd.50441 

Warner, T. A., K. L. Cummins, and R. E. Orville "Upward lightning observations from towers in Rapid City, South Dakota and comparison with National Lightning Detection Network data, 2004-2010" J. Geophys. Res, v.117, 2012, p.16 pages. doi:doi:10.1029/2012JD018346 

Warner, T. A., R. E. Orville, J. L. Marshall, and K. Huggins "Spectral (600â??1050 nm) time exposures (99.6 Ã?¼s) of a lightning stepped leader" J Geophysical Research Atmospheres, v., 2011, p.. doi:10.1029/2011JD015663 

Warner, T. A., J. H. Helsdon, M. J. Bunkers, M. M. F. Saba, and R.E. Orville "UPLIGHTS: Upward Lightning Triggering Study" Bulletin of the Amer. Meteor. Soc, v.94, 2013, p.631.

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

          The didgital high-speed spectroscopic lightning studies supported in this project are part of the Upward Lightning Triggering Study (UPLIGHTS).  This latter study is a three-year National Science Foundation-funded field project that is taking place in Rapid City, South Dakota, from April 2012 to September 2014. Since 2004, GPS time-synchronized optical observations of upward lightning have been conducted from 10 towers in Rapid City. These towers range in height from 91 to 191 m and are situated along an elevated ridge line that runs north–south through Rapid City.  The height of the ridge reaches approximately 180 m above the surrounding terrain. The natural conditions around Rapid City (open-sky country, low-height urban area, and tower locations) are favorable for optical observations of multiple towers. The working hypothesis of UPLIGHTS is that upward leaders from the towers are primarily triggered by 1) the approach of horizontally propagating negative stepped leaders associated with either intracloud development or following a positive cloud-to-ground (+CG) return stroke, and/or 2) a +CG return stroke as it propagates through a previously formed leader network that is near the towers, and that specific storm types are favorable for the occurrence of upward lightning.

     There are a number of reasons why it is important to understand how upward lightning is triggered by nearby flashes and to quantify the types and components of flashes responsible for this triggering. With the increasing number of tall structures being built, there will be a corresponding increase in the number of upward lightning flashes from these structures. Quantifying the contribution of upward lightning to the total flash production in the vicinity of a tower will show how anthropogenic activity likely is increasing the total number of lightning flashes to ground in the vicinity of tall towers and to what scale. A better understanding of how nearby flashes trigger upward lightning will help to quantify the increased rates of lightning events and the increased exposure of these objects to lightning current. It may also result in methods ...

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