New simulations explain huge lightning flashes

With new simulations Alejandro Luque and Ute Ebert (CWI) explained huge lightning flashes above clouds: sprites. They published their results in Nature Geoscience, which appeared online on 25 October 2009.

Publication date: 26-10-2009



With new simulations Alejandro Luque and Ute Ebert (CWI) explained huge lightning flashes above clouds: sprites. They published their results in Nature Geoscience, which appeared online on 25 October 2009.

Sprite-discharges are huge lightning flashes above thunderclouds. In 2005, high speed films showed that sprites arise at  70-90 km altitude in the conducting ionosphere. From that point they pull down tens of kilometers and sometimes up again. Until now, a theoretical explanation for sprites did not exist. When do they start? How thick are sprites, how fast are they and how much light do they radiate? Why are they often preceeded by a halo - diffuse light? Alejandro Luque and Ute Ebert from the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in Amsterdam answered these questions with new computer simulations. They published their findings in Nature Geoscience, which was published online on 25 October 2009

More information, illustrations and links to movies:
see the full press release of CWI and STW.

The research project is financed by STW. At CWI, Earth and Life Science is an important theme. This research is a good example. 

Ute Ebert and Alejandro Luque in the media:
- interview with Ute Ebert by Ruud de Wild, Q-music, Monday 26 October 2009, 7.15 uur
- the researchers at the Dutch news site nu.nl
- sprites on the website of national newspaper De Telegraaf