83rd Annual

Tuesday, 11 February 2003: 9:00 AM
Simulations of Spatial and Temporal Variations of Electric Field at the Surface Beneath Thunderstorms (as would be measured by a network of electric-field meters)
Frank W. Gallagher III, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and W. H. Beasley, A. R. Bansemer, L. G. Byerley, J. A. Swenson, and I. G. Bogoev
Poster PDF (362.0 kB)
A network of electric-field mills has been in operation at the NASA Kennedy Space Center for nearly three decades. It provides data on the electric field at the ground for use by decision makers who have the responsibility to decide whether to continue or cease hazardous operations, such as spacecraft launches and fueling, that are sensitive to strong electric fields and lightning. Such networks would be extemely valuable for warning of impending electrical storms at golf courses, marinas, stadiums, national parks, and many other venues for outdoor activities. The cost to purchase, install, maintain, provide power to and communicate with field-mill networks has been prohibitive for all but a few extremely high-risk situations, such as that at NASA KSC. Now, a new, low-maintenance, low-power, high-reliability electric-field meter is being developed by Campbell Scientific, Inc., that is ideally suited for use in conjunction with solar-powered automated remote meteorological stations or as stand-alone instruments. With these new field meters it will be economically feasible to deploy sufficient numbers and with sufficiently close spacing to provide routine mapping of contours of electric field at the surface beneath thunderstorms in numerous situations for which conventional field-mill networks would be too costly. In order to begin to understand how to deal with the data streams from such networks, and to develop means of displaying and interpreting the data, we have simulated the growth and decay of electrified storms over networks of realistically distributed electric-field meters. We have simulated growth, decay, and advection of various simple and complex charge distributions in order to get an idea of the range of temporal and spatial variability we might expect in the electric-field contours that result at the surface. The ultimate goals are both improved understanding of the behavior of thunderstorm electric fields at the ground and development of affordable means for improved early warning of the potential for lightning strikes.

Supplementary URL: