On the Attachment of Lightning Flashes to Grounded Structures

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis deals with the physical modeling of the initiation and propagation of upward positive leader discharges from grounded structures during lightning strikes. It includes the analysis of upward leaders initiated under the influence of the electric field produced by a dominant negative cloud charge and due to the combined action of a negative thundercloud and a descending downward stepped negative leader. Thus, a self-consistent model based on the physics of leader discharges is developed for the evaluation of the attachment of lightning flashes to any kind of grounded structure. The predictions of the model have been found to be in good agreement with the results of laboratory long air gap experiments and with classical and altitude rocket triggered lightning experiments.Due to the high application level and predictive power of the developed model, several contributions to the physical understanding of factors influencing the initiation and propagation of upward positive leaders during thunderstorms have been made. For instance, it has been found that the initiation of upward connecting leaders is strongly affected by the average velocity of the downward stepped leader. Similarly, it is shown that the switching voltage impulses used in the laboratory do not “fairly approximate” the electric fields produced by a descending downward leader, as claimed by supporters of Early Streamer Emission (ESE) devices. Furthermore, it is found that the space charge layer created by corona at ground level significantly increases the thundercloud electric fields required to initiate upward lightning leaders from tall objects. On the other hand, it is also shown that the upward leader velocity depends on the downward leader average velocity, the prospective return stroke current, the lateral distance of the downward leader channel and the ambient electric field.By implementing the model to the analysis of complex structures, it has been observed that the corners of actual buildings struck by lightning coincide rather well with the places characterized by low leader inception electric fields. Besides, it has been found that the leader inception zones of the corners of complex structures do not define symmetrical and circular regions as it is generally assumed.