On negative Sprites and the Polarity Paradox

Alfred Bing Chih Chen, Han Chen, Chia Wen Chuang, Steven A. Cummer, Gaopeng Lu, Hui Kuan Fang, Han Tzong Su, Rue Ron Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Energetic positive and negative cloud-to-ground (CG) flashes are both capable of producing sprites. Negative CGs typically outnumber the positive ones by 10 to 1. However, >99.9 % of reported sprites were found to be initiated by positive CGs—thus the polarity paradox. Here, sprites recorded by the Imager of Sprites and Upper Atmospheric Lightning (ISUAL) mission were analyzed along with extremely low-frequency band magnetic field data to resolve this paradox. Approximately twenty-five percent of the sprites are found to be associated with negative CG lightning. “Negative” sprites mainly congregate in the latitudinal regions below 20°, while positive sprites scatter up to 50°. The ISUAL negative sprites are evidently beyond the observable ranges of the ground sites reported in previous studies. Hence, the sprite polarity paradox is likely a selection effect of the middle- to high-altitudinal observation sites. The charge moment changes and accompanying transient luminous events of sprites were also examined and found to be polarity dependent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9370-9378
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 28

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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