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 and digital still imagery along with animations in hope 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 concurrently obtained my Masters Degree in Atmospheric Science. As a PhD student, I 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.
I refer to various physical processes throughout this education section. Some of these processes I have researched personally, whereas others are familiar, but do not fall in my area of expertise. Furthermore, I do not provide detailed scientific explanations for many of the processes as these explanations are meant for the general public. Some of the processes are well known and others are not and are the subjects of continued research. As the scientific process continues, I fully expect that some of my explanations may need to be modified or even changed in light of new discovery. I welcome inputs, comments and suggestions from those involved in lightning research so that collectively we can increase public understanding, awareness and safety. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am choosing not to include individual source citations within the explanations so as to make this section more readable for the general audience. However, I do include a comprehensive reference list as the last section.