Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Richard Miller

Committee Member

Hugh Christian

Committee Member

Max Bonamente

Committee Member

Robert Preece

Committee Member

Lingze Duan


Charge coupled devices., Complementary metal oxide semiconductors., Lightning--Remote sensing., Holography.


In the mid 1960s, Martin Uman, Leon Salanave and Richard Orville laid the foundation for lightning spectroscopy. They were among the first to acquire time re- solved return stroke spectra and the first to use spectroscopy as a diagnostic technique to characterize physical properties of the lightning channel [1] [2] [3]. Now, almost 50 years later, technology, including CMOS and CCD high speed cameras, volume-phase holographic (VPH) gratings, and triggered lightning, has progressed to the point at which new studies in lightning spectroscopy are needed to verify and extend past measurements. New spectral lines have been discovered in the lightning spectrum as a result of the modern studies, mainly doubly ionized nitrogen lines which had not been observed in the past. The modern technique uses CMOS and CCD cameras with frame rates of up to 1Mfps with exposure down to 0.5 s. The high frame rate paired with camera memory enables a view into the quick high temperature heating period within the first few microseconds of the return stroke, as well as a detailed look at the cooling period which can last for milliseconds. The spectra are recorded digitally and discretely, hence the data can be summed to to view different exposure times revealing long lasting low emission lines during the cooling period as well. Spectral line identification for the natural and triggered lightning are for a range of wavelengths from soft ultraviolet around 3800A to the near infrared at 9500A. The first few microseconds of the lightning return stroke spectrum consists of hydrogen from disassociated water and singly and doubly ionized lines of atomic atmospheric constituents, i.e. argon, nitrogen, and oxygen. Temperatures calculated during this period have been measured above 40000 K. The peak temperature is measured from the first spectrum of the return stroke. After this the channel continuously cools over the lifetime of the return stroke unless there is an increase in the continuing current. Tens of microseconds after the onset, a cool period in the spectra exists which consists solely of neutral atomic emission lines. The cooling period temperature measurements begin in the low 20000 K range and decrease slowly over the course of milliseconds until strength of the emission lines drop below measurement threshold. Besides the return stroke, other specific lightning processes analyzed include stepped leaders, dart-stepped leaders, and m-components within the continuing current. Stepped and dart-stepped leader spectra consist both of pulsing singly ionized lines and steadily growing neutral lines. Each step within these processes cause increased ionization to occur in the channel upward from the step, demonstrating a pulsing temperature throughout the lifetime of these stepped features. Spectra of the stroke processes, m-components and continuing currents, consist of neutral atmospheric emission lines and copper emission lines which demonstrate the long duration of the channel milliseconds after the initial stages. These spectra indicate long lasting low temperatures which should give insight into temperature profiles where NOx reactions occur. From the spectra, emission identification and lifetime as well as calculations of physical parameters such as temperature, number density, and conductivity about each of these processes give insight into what is physically happening within the channel throughout the lifetime of a stroke.



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