Detecting lightning infrasound using a high-altitude balloon

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Oliver Lamb , Jonathan M Lees , Daniel Bowman


Acoustic waves with a wide range of frequencies are generated by lightning strokes during thunderstorms, including infrasonic waves (0.1 to 20 Hz). The source mechanism for these low frequency acoustic waves is still debated and studies have so far been limited to ground-based instruments. Here we report the first confirmed detection of lightning generated infrasound with acoustic instruments suspended at stratospheric altitudes using a free-flying balloon. We observe high-amplitude signals generated by lightning strokes located within 100 km of the balloon as it flew over the Tasman Sea on 17 May 2016. The signals share many characteristics with waveforms recorded previously by ground-based instruments near thunderstorms. The ability to measure lightning activity with high-altitude infrasound instruments has demonstrated the potential for using these platforms to image the full acoustic wavefield in the atmosphere. Furthermore, it validates the use of these platforms for recording and characterizing infrasonic sources located beyond the detection range of ground-based instruments.



Atmospheric Sciences, Earth Sciences, Geophysics and Seismology, Meteorology, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, Physical Sciences and Mathematics


Lightning, infrasound, High-altitude balloon


Published: 2018-04-18 04:07

Last Updated: 2018-06-26 02:20

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Academic Free License (AFL) 3.0