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Aug 16, 2022

New information on ‘gigantic jet’ lightning bursts that reach toward space

Posted by in categories: climatology, satellites

A detailed 3D study of a massive electrical discharge that rose 50 miles into space above an Oklahoma thunderstorm has provided new information about an elusive atmospheric phenomenon known as gigantic jets. The Oklahoma discharge was the most powerful gigantic jet studied so far, carrying 100 times as much electrical charge as a typical thunderstorm lightning bolt.

The gigantic jet moved an estimated 300 coulombs of electrical charge into the ionosphere—the lower edge of space—from the thunderstorm. Typical bolts carry less than five coulombs between the cloud and ground or within clouds. The upward discharge included relatively cool (approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit) streamers of plasma, as well as structures called leaders that are very hot—more than 8,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We were able to map this gigantic jet in three dimensions with really ,” said Levi Boggs, a research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the paper’s corresponding author. “We were able to see very high frequency (VHF) sources above the cloud top, which had not been seen before with this level of detail. Using satellite and , we were able to learn where the very hot leader portion of the discharge was located above the cloud.”

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