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The Illumination of Thunderclouds by Lightning: Part 4: Volumetric Thunderstorm Imagery
  • Michael Jay Peterson,
  • Douglas Michael Mach
Michael Jay Peterson
ISR-2,Los Alamos National Laboratory

Corresponding Author:michaeljp24@gmail.com

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Douglas Michael Mach
Universities Space Research Association
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Abstract

Optical instruments such as the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) detect lightning based on transient changes in cloud illumination. The horizontal location of lightning is determined from the coordinates of the pixels on the imaging array illuminated during the flash. However, the vertical position of the lightning pulses (approximated by GLM “groups”) below the cloud-top cannot be routinely determined from a single space-based instrument. In our prior work, we have developed a machine learning algorithm that can infer optical source altitude for a given pulse based on how the optical energy is distributed across the group footprint. In this fourth part of our thundercloud illumination study, we leverage these source altitudes to generate volumetric GLM imagery of a Colombia thunderstorm. We find that 3D versions of the current GLM meteorological imagery products (that describe thunderstorm kinematics) and thundercloud imagery products (that depict how the flash appears from space) provide additional insights into lightning activity in the thunderstorm are lost in the vertical integration used to generate the current 2D GLM gridded products. This new volumetric imaging capability provides a more comprehensive picture of where lightning occurs in the storm, how its physical characteristics vary across three-dimensional space, and how its optical emissions interact with surrounding the cloud medium.