Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 8, pp 1127–1135 | Cite as

Development characteristics of cloud-to-ground lightning with multiple grounding points

  • Bin Fan
  • Ping Yuan
  • Xuejuan Wang
  • Yang Zhao
  • Jianyong Cen
  • Yanling Su
Research Paper


Using the optical images of a cloud-to-ground lightning flash with multiple grounding points obtained by a high-speed video system in the Qinghai Province of China along with synchronous radiated electric field information, the propagation characteristic and the electric field change features of the leaders and the grounding behavior of discharge channels are analyzed. In addition, the two-dimensional velocity of the leader was estimated and its correlation with the time interval of the corresponding subsequent return stroke, and that with the peak current of return stroke are investigated. The results show that the average distance between the three obvious grounded points of the first return stroke channel is about 512.7 m, and the average time interval between the pulses of the corresponding electric field fast changes is 3.8 μs. Further, the average time interval between electric field pulses from the stepped leader is smaller than that of normal single grounding lightning. The observed lightning in our study has two main channels, namely the left and right channels. Based on our observations, it is clear that the dart leader comes close to the ground in case of the left channel after the first return stroke, but it fails to form a return stroke. However, the right channel exhibits a relatively rare phenomenon in that the subsequent return stroke R2 occurred about 2.1 ms after the dart leader arrived at the ground, which was unusually long; this phenomenon might be attributed to the strong discharge of the first return stroke and insufficient charge accumulation near the grounded point in a timely manner. The two-dimensional velocities for the stepped leader of the two main channels are about 1.23×105 and 1.16×105 m s−1, respectively. A sub-branch of stepped leader for the left channel fails to reach the ground and develops into an attempt leader eventually; this might be attributed to the fact that the main branch connects considerably many sub-branches, which leads to the instantaneous decline of the potential difference between the sub-branch and ground. Furthermore, it might also be because the propagation direction of this sub-branch is almost perpendicular to the atmospheric electric field direction, which is not conducive to charge transfer. The two-dimensional velocities for the dart leaders of five subsequent return strokes are all in the normal range, and they positively correlate with the peak current of the subsequent return stroke.


Multiple grounding lightning High-speed camera Electric field changes Leader 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundations of China (Grants Nos. 11475139, 11365019 & 11605108) and the Gansu Provincial Science and Technology Program (Grant No. 1506RJZA119).


  1. Beasley W, Uman M A, Rustan Jr. P L. 1982. Electric fields preceding cloud-to-ground lightning flashes. J Geophys Res, 87: 4883–4902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Campos L Z S, Saba M M F, Warner T A, Pinto Jr O, Krider E P, Orville R E. 2014. High-speed video observations of natural cloud-to-ground lightning leaders—A statistical analysis. Atmos Res, 135–136: 285–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cooray V, Fernando M, Sörensen T, Götschl T, Pedersen A. 2000. Propagation of lightning generated transient electromagnetic fields over finitely conducting ground. J Atmos Sol-Terr Phys, 62: 583–600CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cooray V, Lundquist S. 1982. On the characteristics of some radiation fields from lightning and their possible origin in positive ground flashes. J Geophys Res, 87: 11203–11214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Guo C M, Krider E P. 1982. The optical and radiation field signatures produced by lightning return strokes. J Geophys Res, 87: 8913–8922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Haddad M A, Rakov V A, Cummer S A. 2012. New measurements of lightning electric fields in Florida: Waveform characteristics, interaction with the ionosphere, and peak current estimates. J Geophys Res, 117: D10101–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hill J D, Uman M A, Jordan D M. 2011. High-speed video observations of a lightning stepped leader. J Geophys Res, 116: D16117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Idone V P, Orville R E. 1985. Correlated peak relative light intensity and peak current in triggered lightning subsequent return strokes. J Geophys Res, 90: 6159–6164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Idone V P, Orville R E, Hubert P, Barret L, Eybert-Berard A. 1984. Correlated observations of three triggered lightning flashes. J Geophys Res, 89: 1385–1394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jiang R B, Qie X S, Wang Z C, Zhang H B, Lu G P, Sun Z L, Liu M Y, Li X. 2015. Characteristics of lightning leader propagation and ground attachment. J Geophys Res-Atmos, 120: 11988–12002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jordan D M, Idone V P, Rakov V A, Uman M A, Beasley W H, Jurenka H. 1992. Observed dart leader speed in natural and triggered lightning. J Geophys Res, 97: 9951–9957CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kong X Z, Qie X S, Zhang G S, Zhang D. 2005. Research on steppedleader and return-stroke of the cloud-to-ground lightning with multiplegrounding-point in the same return stroke (in Chinese). Proc CSEE, 25: 142–147Google Scholar
  13. Kong X Z, Qie X S, Wang C W, Zhang Y J, Wang H B, Zhang C H. 2003. Optical and electrical characteristics of the cloud-to-ground lightning flash with two-striking-point in the first return-stroke (in Chinese). Plateau Meteor, 22: 259–267Google Scholar
  14. Kong X Z, Qie X S, Zhao Y. 2008. Characteristics of downward leader in a positive cloud-to-ground lightning flash observed by high-speed video camera and electric field changes. Geophys Res Lett, 35: L05816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Krider E P, Weidman C D, Noggle R C. 1977. The electric fields produced by lightning stepped leaders. J Geophys Res, 82: 951–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Li J, Lu W T, Zhang Y J, Dong W S, Zheng D, Chen S D, Qiu S, Wang T, Liu H Y, Chen L W. 2010. An altitude-triggered lightning with multiple branches and ground contacts (in Chinese). J Appl Meteorol Sci, 21: 95–100Google Scholar
  17. Li X, Qie X S, Liu K, Wang Y, Wang D F, Liu M Y, Sun Z L, Zhang H B. 2017. Characteristics of cloud-to-ground lightning return strokes in Beijing based on high temporal resolution data of fast electric field change (in Chinese). Clim Environ Res, 22: 231-241Google Scholar
  18. Mach D M, Rust W D. 1997. Two-dimensional speed and optical risetime estimates for natural and triggered dart leaders. J Geophys Res, 102: 13673–13684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Qi Q, Lu W T, Ma Y, Chen L, Zhang Y, Rakov V A. 2016. High-speed video observations of the fine structure of a natural negative stepped leader at close distance. Atmos Res, 178-179: 260–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Qie X S, Guo C M, Zhang C H, Liu X S, Watanabe T, Wang D H, Kawasaki Z, Nakano M, Nakamura K, Ushio T. 1998. Radiation electric field of return stroke and attachment process near the ground (in Chinese). Plateau Meteorol, 17: 44–54Google Scholar
  21. Qie X S, Yang J, Jiang R B, Wang C X, Feng G L, Wu S J, Zhang G S. 2012. Shandong artificially triggering lightning experiment and current characterization of return stroke (in Chinese). Chin J Atmos Sci, 36: 77–88Google Scholar
  22. Qie X S, Zhang G S, Kong X Z, Zhang Y J, Wang H B, Zhou J J, Zhang T, Wang S J. 2003. Observation on the summer lightning discharge in the northeastern verge of Qinghai-Xizang Plateau (in Chinese). Plateau Meteorol, 22: 209–216Google Scholar
  23. Qie X S, Yu Y, Guo C M, Laroche P, Zhang G S, Zhang Q L. 2002. Some features of stepped and dart-stepped leaders near the ground in natural negative cloud-to-ground lightning discharges. Ann Geophys, 20: 863–870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rakov V A, Uman M A. 2003. Lightning: Physics and Effects. New York: Cambridge University Press. 410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Saba M M F, Cummins K L, Warner T A, Krider E P, Campos L Z S, Ballarotti M G, Pinto Jr O, Fleenor S A. 2008. Positive leader characteristics from high-speed video observations. Geophys Res Lett, 35: L07802CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sun J Q. 1982. Thunder and Lightning (in Chinese). Beijing: Electric Power Industry Press. 74Google Scholar
  27. Sun Z L, Qie X S, Liu M Y, Jiang R B, Wang Z C, Zhang H B. 2016. Characteristics of a negative lightning with multiple-ground terminations observed by a VHF lightning location system. J Geophys Res Atmos, 121: 413–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Thottappillil R, Rakov V A, Uman M A, Beasley W H, Master M J, Shelukhin D V. 1992. Lightning subsequent-stroke electric field peak greater than the first stroke peak and multiple ground terminations. J Geophys Res, 97: 7503–7509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Valine W C, Krider E P. 2002. Statistics and characteristics of cloud-toground lightning with multiple ground contacts. J Geophys Res, 107: 4441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wang D, Takagi N, Watanabe T, Rakov V A, Uman M A, Rambo K J, Stapleton M V. 2005. A comparison of channel-base currents and optical signals for rocket-triggered lightning strokes. Atmos Res, 76: 412–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wang D, Takagi N, Watanabe T. 2000. Luminosity waves in branched channels of two negative lightning flashes. J Atmos Elec, 20: 91–97Google Scholar
  32. Wang D H, Qie X S, Guo C M. 2000. Lightning and Artificial Triggering Lightning (in Chinese). Shanghai: Shanghai Jiaotong University Press. 121Google Scholar
  33. Wang D, Takagi N, Watanabe T, Rakov V A, Uman M A. 1999. Observed leader and return-stroke propagation characteristics in the bottom 400 m of a rocket-triggered lightning channel. J Geophys Res, 104: 14369–14376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wu B, Zhang G S, Wang Y H, Li Y J, Zhang T, Fan X P, Lu W T. 2013. Comparative analysis of VHF radiation and optical channel of the negative cloud-to-ground lightning flash with two striking point (in Chinese). Plateau Meteorol, 32: 519–529Google Scholar
  35. Zhang G S, Zhao Y X, Qie X S, Zhang T, Wang Y H, Chen C P. 2008. Observation and study on the whole process of cloud-to-ground lightning using narrowband radio interferometer. Sci China Ser D-Earth Sci, 51: 694–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bin Fan
    • 1
  • Ping Yuan
    • 1
  • Xuejuan Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yang Zhao
    • 2
  • Jianyong Cen
    • 3
  • Yanling Su
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Atomic and Molecular Physics and Functional Materials of Gansu Province, College of Physics and Electronic EngineeringNorthwest Normal UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.School of Atmospheric PhysicsNanjing University of Information Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  3. 3.College of Physics and Information EngineeringShanxi Normal UniversityLinfenChina

Personalised recommendations