The Initial Stage of Cloud Lightning Imaged in High‐Resolution

Stijn Buitink, Olaf Scholten, Arthur Corstanje, Tim Huege, Jörg Hörandel, Godwin Komla Krampah, Pragati Mitra, Katharine Mulrey, Hershal Pandya, Jörg Paul Rachen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


With LOFAR we have been able to image the development of lightning flashes with meter-scale accuracy and unprecedented detail. We discuss the primary steps behind our most recent lightning imaging method. To demonstrate the capabilities of our technique we show and interpret images of the first few milliseconds of two intracloud flashes. In all our flashes, the negative leaders propagate in the charge layer below the main negative charge. Among several interesting features we show that in about 2 ms after initiation the primary initial leader triggers the formation of a multitude (>10) negative leaders in a rather confined area of the atmosphere. From these only one or two continue to propagate after about 30 ms to extend over kilometers horizontally while another may propagate back to the initiation point. We also show that normal negative leaders can transition into an initial leader like state, potentially in the presence of strong electric fields. In addition, we show some initial breakdown pulses that occurred during the primary initial leader, and even during two “secondary” initial leaders that developed out of stepped leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JD033126
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'The Initial Stage of Cloud Lightning Imaged in High‐Resolution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this