Tang Guo-Ying, Sun Zhu-Ling, Jiang Ru-Bin, Li Feng-Quan, Liu Ming-Yuan, Liu Kun, and Qie Xiu-Shu
Characteristics of a triggered bipolar lightning flash obtained in the Shandong triggering lightning experiment (SHATLE) are analyzed based on simultaneous observation results of lightning very high frequency (VHF) interferometer map, channel-base current, fast electric field change and high-speed optical images. The flash lasts about 315 ms with only the initial continuous current (ICC). As the polarity of charges transferred to the ground varies from negative to positive and then to negative, the ICC can be mainly divided into three stages including the first negative ICC stage, positive ICC stage, and second negative ICC stage, respectively, for 152.755 ms, 87.225 ms and 75.02 ms. Charges transferred to the ground during the three stages are about –40.0 C, +13.3 C and –1.0 C, respectively, with the peak current of about –3.8 kA, 1.6 kA and –2.25 kA. According to the VHF interferometer map, during the first negative ICC stage, the upward positive leader (UPL) initiated from the top of the wire as negative charges starts to be transferred to the ground. The UPL develops at a two-dimensional (2D) speed of 3.7 × 104 m/s into the cloud and multiple positive branches develop in the form of small-scale and dense recoil leaders, keeping the increase of negative charge transferred to the ground. Then a negative leader (NL) initiates on a previously ionized positive branch channel and develops into the virgin air horizontally as a floating channel at a 2D propagation speed of 1.59 × 105 m/s. About 28.816 ms later after the NL develops, a negative pulse is detected in the fast electric field change, caused by a negative polarity breakdown discharge from the grounding trunk channel to the floating channel which is observed for the first time. Then about 39 μs later, the first polarity of the channel-base current changes from negative to positive, and rapidly reaches a positive peak in 1.75 ms. Subsequently, with the positive ICC decreasing, the negative leader gradually terminates about 65.85 ms after the first polarity reversal, and then 21.38 ms later the channel-base current slowly changes to the recognizable negative polarity as the second polarity reversal. A recoil leader generating in a previously ionized positive branch channel connects to the trunk channel, resulting in the initial continuous current pulse (ICCP) during the second negative ICC stage. Then several negative recoil leaders occur, tracing back to the previous positive channels without obvious current changes until the flash ends. Based on the analysis, the positive branch channel persistently transfers negative charge to the ground in the whole discharge process by the positive breakdown on the tip or the negative recoil leaders retrograding along the previous positive channels. The trunk channel is connected to the floating channel through negative breakdown discharges, linking at the positive charge accumulation area at the tail end of the negative leader or the positive polar end of a bidirectional leader towards the trunk channel, if the negative leader develops as a bidirectional leader later. Then, the net charge transferred to the ground is dominantly positive and the reversal of first channel current polarity occurs. With the negative leader disappearing, the supply of positive charge ceases, so the current polarity reverses again (the second reversal). Connection of the negative leader to the grounding trunk channel and continuous development of the positive leader are inferred to play an important role in reversing the two current polarities. In this case, the negative leader developing in virgin air might be initiated transversely in an ionized positive channel or from the end of a decayed positive leader branch of the ionized positive channel which is small and undistinguishable from the VHF interferometer map.