The advancement of digital high-speed camera technology has allowed us to visualize lightning like never before. Used in conjunction with ambient electric field and electric field change sensing instrumentation and sensor technology that can receive lightning radiative signals allowing 3-dimensional visualization of leader propagation, analysis of the combined data has significantly improved our understanding of lightning and its behavior. In the following sections, I seek to explain basic lightning processes using primarily high-speed imagery and animations in hopes of increasing public understanding of this amazing atmospheric phenomenon and in turn improving public safety.
This is my current understanding of lightning and lightning behavior based on my personal observation, analysis and the findings from my research as well as the published research and findings from and discussions with fellow colleagues in the field of lightning research. I am currently not affiliated with a university, however, I previous worked for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota as a research scientist/pilot and was the lead proposal writer and a principle investigator for the Upward Lightning Triggering Study which sought to better understand upward lightning. This three year project was partially funded by the National Science Foundation and was a collaborative effort with Dr. John H. Helsdon Jr., of South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rapid City, South Dakota, USA, Dr. Marcelo Saba, Dr. Carina Schuman of the National Institute for Space Research, INPE, S. José dos Campos, Brazil, Dr. Richard Orville of Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA, and Dr. Ron Thomas, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico, USA.