Multi-instrumental observations of a positive gigantic jet produced by a winter thunderstorm in Europe


At 2336:56 UTC on 12 December 2009, a bright gigantic jet (GJ) was recorded by an observer in Italy. Forty-nine additional sprites, elves, halos and two cases of upward lightning were observed that night. The location of the GJ corresponded to a distinct cloud top (-34°C) west of Ajaccio, Corsica. The GJ reached approximately 91 km altitude, with a "trailing jet" reaching 49-59 km, matching with earlier reported GJs. The duration was short at 120-160 ms. This is the first documented GJ which emerged from a maritime winter thunderstorm only 6.5 km tall, showing high cloud tops are not required for initiation of GJs. In the presence of strong vertical wind shear, the meteorological situation was different from typical outbreaks of fall and winter thunderstorms in the Mediterranean. During the trailing jet phase of the GJ, a sprite with halo triggered by a nearby cloud-to-ground lightning flash occurred at a relatively low altitude (<72 km). At the same time, the trailing jet and beads were reilluminated. Electromagnetic waveforms from Hungary, Poland, and the USA revealed this GJ is the first reported to transfer negative charge (approximately 136 C) from the ionosphere to the positively charged origins in the cloud (i.e., a positive cloud-to-ionosphere discharge, +CI), with a large total charge moment change of 11600 C km and a maximum current of 3.3 kA. Early VLF transmitter amplitude perturbations detected concurrently with the GJ confirm the production of large conductivity changes due to electron density enhancements in the D-region of the ionosphere. Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.






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Publication Info

Van Der Velde, OA, J Bór, J Li, SA Cummer, E Arnone, F Zanotti, M Füllekrug, C Haldoupis, et al. (2010). Multi-instrumental observations of a positive gigantic jet produced by a winter thunderstorm in Europe. Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres, 115(24). p. D24301. 10.1029/2010JD014442 Retrieved from

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Steven A. Cummer

William H. Younger Distinguished Professor of Engineering

Dr. Steven Cummer received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1997 and prior to joining Duke University in 1999 he spent two years at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as an NRC postdoctoral research associate. Awards he has received include a National Science Foundation CAREER award and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2001. His current work is in a variety of theoretical and experimental electromagnetic problems related to geophysical remote sensing and engineered electromagnetic materials.

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