Resolution of the sprite polarity paradox: The role of halos

E. Williams, C. L. Kuo, J. Bór, G. Stori, R. Newsome, T. Adachi, R. Boldi, A. Chen, E. Downes, R. R. Hsu, W. Lyons, M. M.F. Saba, M. Taylor, H. T. Su

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This study revisits the sprite polarity paradox, first manifest by observations that exceptional cloud-to-ground flashes with negative polarity generally did not produce detectable sprites. The paradox is here resolved by the Transient Luminous Event (TLE) known as the halo, which on account of its inferior brightness (0.3 MR versus 1.5 MR) and substantially shorter duration (1 ms versus 10-100 ms) in comparison with the sprite, is not readily detectable in ground-based video cameras with standard field duration (16.7-20 ms). Observations with improved temporal resolution (ISUAL (Imager of Sprites and Upper Atmospheric Lightnings) from space and PIPER (Photometric Imager of Precipitated Electron Radiation) observations from the ground) provide evidence that flashes with negative polarity dominate the global halo population, and that the halo numbers are more than sufficient to account for the previously missing TLEs. The evidence for lightning polarity-dependent TLEs (sprites, positive and halos, negative) is attributable to the well established but incompletely understood contrast in the behavior of negative and positive lightning flashes to ground.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberRS2002
JournalRadio Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


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