Bipolar cloud-to-ground lightning flash observations Academic Article uri icon


  • Bipolar lightning is usually defined as a lightning flash where the current waveform exhibits a polarity reversal. There are very few reported cases of cloud-to-ground (CG) bipolar flashes using only one channel in the literature. Reports on this type of bipolar flashes are not common due to the fact that in order to confirm that currents of both polarities follow the same channel to the ground, one necessarily needs video records. This study presents five clear observations of single-channel bipolar CG flashes. High-speed video and electric field measurement observations are used and analyzed. Based on the video images obtained and based on previous observations of positive CG flashes with high-speed cameras, we suggest that positive leader branches which do not participate in the initial return stroke of a positive cloud-to-ground flash later generate recoil leaders whose negative ends, upon reaching the branch point, traverse the return stroke channel path to the ground resulting in a subsequent return stroke of opposite polarity. Key Points Existence of single-channel bipolar flashes Common characteristics of bipolar flashes How can positive and negative discharges use the same path to ground? 2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Saba, M., Schumann, C., Warner, T. A., Helsdon, J., Schulz, W., & Orville, R. E.

citation count

  • 26

complete list of authors

  • Saba, Marcelo MF||Schumann, Carina||Warner, Tom A||Helsdon, John H Jr||Schulz, Wolfgang||Orville, Richard E

publication date

  • October 2013