We present a new method of locating current flow in lightning strikes by inversion of thunder recordings constrained by Lightning Mapping Array observations. First, radio frequency (RF) pulses are connected to reconstruct conductive channels created by leaders. Then, acoustic signals that would be produced by current flow through each channel are forward modeled. The recorded thunder is considered to consist of a weighted superposition of these acoustic signals. We calculate the posterior distribution of acoustic source energy for each channel with a Markov Chain Monte Carlo inversion that fits power envelopes of modeled and recorded thunder; these results show which parts of the flash carry current and produce thunder. We examine the effects of RF pulse location imprecision and atmospheric winds on quality of results and apply this method to several lightning flashes over the Magdalena Mountains in New Mexico, USA. This method will enable more detailed study of lightning phenomena by allowing researchers to map current flow in addition to leader propagation.
This document was originally published by the American Geophysical Union in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.1002/2014JD021624
Anderson, J. F.; Johnson, J. B.; Arechiga, R. O.; and Thomas, R. J.. (2014). "Mapping Thunder Sources by Inverting Acoustic and Electromagnetic Observations". Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 119(23), 13,287–13,304.