DOI: 10.1029/2023jd038714 ISSN:

Acoustical power of lightning flashes

Damien Bestard, François Coulouvrat, Thomas Farges, Janusz Mlynarczyk
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geophysics


Lightning is a ubiquitous source of infrasound. To study lightning flashes, thunder measurement efficiently complements electromagnetic observation. Using acoustical arrays, time delays between sensors inform on the direction of sound arrival, while the difference between emission time and sound arrival provides the source distance. Combining the two allows a geometrical reconstruction of individual lightning flashes, each viewed as a set of sound point sources. The measured sound amplitude can also be back‐propagated, compensating for absorption and density stratification. This allows to evaluate the acoustical power of each detected source, and the total power of an individual flash. This methodology is carried out to analyze data from two campaigns in Southern continental France (HyMeX‐SOP1, 2012) and in Corsica (EXAEDRE, 2018). Acoustic reconstruction is compared with ground and altitude localizations provided respectively by electromagnetic low frequency range Lightning Location Systems (LLS), and very high frequency range Lightning Mapping Array (LMA). In Corsica, power from reconstructed sources is also forward‐propagated towards several isolated microphones, and compared to measured signal, giving an additional validation of the power evaluation. Seventy eight events from the two campaigns are analyzed, including negative and positive cloud‐to‐ground discharges and intracloud ones. The analysis outlines the method efficiency and the strong variability of lightning as sound sources in terms of both power spatial distribution and overall value. Lastly, the correlation of this later with electrical parameters is investigated, either peak current (provided by LLS) or Charge Moment Change, resulting from broadband Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) measurements.

More from our Archive