Analysis of lightning strokes associated with sprites observed by ISUAL in the vicinity of North America

Gaopeng Lu, Steven A. Cummer, Alfred B. Chen, Fanchao Lyu, Dongshuai Li, Fei Liu, Rue Ron Hsu, Han Tzong Su

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14 Citations (Scopus)


We examined the broadband (<1 Hz to 30 kHz) lightning sferics associated with 395 sprites observed near North America by the Imager of Sprites and Upper Atmospheric Lightning (ISUAL) onboard the FORMOSAT-2 satellite in a 12-year period from 2004 to 2015. Our analysis indicates that the ISUAL dataset contains a significant fraction (69, or ~18%) of negative sprites, which were predominantly (>80%) observed over oceanic and coastal thunderstorms mostly in tropical areas. The mean and median of impulse charge moment change (iCMC) associated with positive (negative) sprites are +346 C km (-709 C km) and +280 C km (-649 C km), respectively. The morphology and parent lightning properties (e.g., typically with high peak currents >-80 kA and large iCMCs >-300 C km) of negative sprites observed by the ISUAL are generally consistent with that documented in ground-based observations, but the ISUAL dataset does imply that sprites are sometimes produced by negative strokes with sub-critical iCMCs (less than -300 C km). Consequently, the future survey of global occurrence of sprites is desired to be based on complementary ground and space-borne observations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-595
Number of pages13
JournalTerrestrial, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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