Upward lightning observations from towers in Rapid City, South Dakota and comparison with National Lightning Detection Network data, 2004-2010 Academic Article uri icon


  • We report on upward lightning observations from ten tall towers (91-191 m) in Rapid City, South Dakota, USA and compare with National Lightning Detection Network (NLDN) data. A total of 81 upward flashes were observed from 2004-2010 using GPS time-stamped optical sensors, and in all but one case, visible flash activity preceded the development of the upward leaders. Time-correlated analysis showed that the NLDN recorded an event within 50 km of towers and within 500 ms prior to upward leader development from the tower(s) for 83% (67/81) of the upward flashes. A preceding positive cloud-to-ground stroke (+CG) was detected in 57% (46/81) of the cases, and a preceding positive intracloud flash (+IC) in 23% (19/81) of the cases. However, 8 of the 19 NLDN-indicated +IC events were actually +CG strokes based on optical observations. Preceding negative intracloud flashes (-IC) were recorded for 2% (2/81) of the cases. Analysis also showed that for 44% (36/81) of the upward flashes, the NLDN reported subsequent negative cloud-to-ground (-CG) strokes and/or -IC events at one or more tower locations. Of the 151 subsequent events, 70% (105/151) were -CG reports and 30% (46/151) were listed as -IC events. The geometric mean/median location accuracy and peak current for subsequent events were 194 m/206 m and -12.9 kA/-12.4 kA respectively. These correlated observations suggest that a majority of the upward lightning flashes were triggered by a preceding flash with the dominant triggering type being the +CG flash. 2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 12.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Warner, T. A., Cummins, K. L., & Orville, R. E.

citation count

  • 98

complete list of authors

  • Warner, Tom A||Cummins, Kenneth L||Orville, Richard E

publication date

  • October 2012