GPL: Lightning Research

We are the Lightning Research group at the Geospace Physics Laboratory (GPL) in the Department of Physics and Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. We are interested in understanding the underlying physics of lightning discharges. Our research includes theoretical, observational and experimental studies of runaway electron physics, x-ray emissions from thunderstorms and lightning, terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs), and lightning initiation and propagation.

Sprites & Streamers Research

Transient luminous events (TLEs) include a group of large electrical discharges of air occurring in the upper atmosphere. They are driven by thunderstorm activities at tropospheric altitudes. There are at least four currently known forms of TLEs: blue jets, elves, gigantic jets, and sprites. Blue jets emanate from the top of thunderclouds up to an altitude of 40 km. Elves are lightning-induced flashes that can spread over 300 km laterally. Gigantic jets are upward moving electrical discharges establishing a direct path of electrical contact between thundercloud tops and the lower ionosphere. Sprites occur in the mesosphere at a range of 50-90 km. They last for a very short period of time, typically on the order of 1-10 ms. Sprites are commonly observed around the world but are mostly seen over populated areas in North, Central and South America, Europe, Japan, China and Australia. Observations have shown sprites normally initiate with streamer discharges at an altitude around 70-75 km which develop downward and then upward at times. Sprite streamers travel at speed from 10^5 to 10^7 m/s. Sprite-parent +CGs produce charge moments of hundreds of C km.

Visit the Florida Tech website on sprite and streamer research for more information: