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[en] Details of the process of lightning formation and orientation of the downward leader required to solve applied problems in the field of lightning protection are considered. It is shown that it is necessary to take into account the mechanism of the bipolar leader formation in the thundercloud electric field, according to which the thunderstorm cell cannot be regarded as a conducting charged electrode, the potential carried by the downward leader channel is determined by the start point and path of the lightning, and the effect of the thunderstorm cell charge reveals itself to a much less degree. An algorithm is proposed for calculating the orientation height, charge per unit channel length, and attraction radius of lightning from the value of the return stroke current. It is stated that lightning current measurements currently used at tall structures cannot serve as a basis to estimate the frequency of dangerous lightning strikes to structures of ordinary height. A scheme of the field research of lightning is proposed that allows the required statistics of lightning currents to be accumulated for a foreseeable time period at admissible material costs. The need to study the mechanism of the competing development of counter discharges from ground-based electrodes is proven, and the relevant technique is offered.
[en] Physical processes determining the ability of lightning to change its trajectory by choosing high constructions to strike are discussed. The leader mechanism of lightning propagation is explained. The criterion for a viable ascending (upward) leader to originate from a construction is established. The mechanism of the weak long-distance interaction between the ascending counter leader originating from a grounded construction and the descending (downward) leader from a cloud is analyzed. Current problems concerning lightning protection and lightning triggering by a laser spark are discussed, the latter being of special interest owing to a recent successful experiment along this line. (physics of our days)
[en] A numerical model of a spark discharge propagating along the ground surface from the point at which an ∼100-kA current pulse is input into the ground has been developed based on experiments in which the velocity of a long leader was measured as a function of the leader current. The results of numerical simulations are in good agreement with the measured characteristics of creeping discharges excited in field experiments by using a high-power explosive magnetic generator. The reason why the length of a spark discharge depends weakly on the number of simultaneously developing channels is found. Analysis of the influence of the temporal characteristics of the current pulse on the parameters of the creeping spark discharge shows that actual lighting may exhibit similar behavior.
[en] The properties of a non-stationary corona initiated from a long grounded wire suspended horizontally above the ground and coronating in a slowly varying thundercloud electric field are studied. A two-dimensional (2D) model of the corona is developed. On the basis of this model, characteristics of the corona produced by a lightning protection wire are calculated under thunderstorm conditions. The corona characteristics are also found by using approximate analytical and quasi-one-dimensional numerical models. The results of these models agree reasonably well with those obtained from the 2D simulation. This allows one to estimate the corona parameters without recourse to the cumbersome simulation. This work was performed with a view to study the efficiency of lightning protection wires later on. (paper)
[en] A kinetic model for the ionization processes in high-temperature air in a strong electric field is used to simulate numerically the effect of a low direct voltage on streamer breakdown in a long air gap between a spherical anode and a plane cathode. It is shown that the application of a low direct voltage strongly affects the discharge process after bridging the gap provided that the channel has been heated up to 3000 K by the completion of the high-voltage impulse. In this case a sudden voltage reduction does not lead to plasma decay; instead, the channel is slowly heated under the action of a low direct voltage and transforms into an arc channel for times lying in the microsecond range. The voltage required for the breakdown is noticeably less than the threshold of the leader process. The breakdown time strongly depends on the internal resistance of a voltage source
[en] New results of observations of the leader process in a pressure chamber are presented for reduced air pressures. The analysis of these data and observations of the leader discharge in peak regions shows that the length of the leader tip and some other characteristics vary by several times as pressure decreases from 1 to 0.3 atm, whereas, under the conditions considered, the leader velocity remains almost independent of air density, the leader current being the same. These data are used to extract relationships between discharge parameters. It is shown that, at reduced air densities, electric field in a 'young' section of the leader channel exceeds electric field in the streamer zone. Therefore, transition of the leader process to the final-jump phase is not inevitably followed by a breakdown of the gap for reduced pressures, as opposed to the discharge in atmospheric pressure air. The model suggested previously by the authors for the streamer-to- leader transition at atmospheric pressure is amended to take into account hydrodynamic expansion of the channel and used to simulate the process at a relative air density of 0.3. The calculated results are used to interpret the observations of the leader process at reduced air pressures
[en] A numerical simulation is used to investigate the effect of rod dimensions on lightning attachment to the lightning rod. The effect is studied by considering a sequence of discharge processes, from a corona ignited in a slowly rising thundercloud electric field to the development of an upward leader in the electric field of an approaching downward leader. It is concluded that the efficacy of a lightning rod is almost independent of the rod radius in the range 0.05-5 cm. This is in agreement with measurements of the breakdown voltage in long laboratory rod-to-plane air gaps for various rod tip radii but is at variance with the conclusions reached by Moore et al (2000a Geophys. Res. Lett. 27 1487, 2000b J. Appl. Meteorol. 39 593, 2003 J. Appl. Meteorol. 42 984) from their observations under thunderstorm conditions
[en] Lightning attachment to grounded structures due to the initiation of an upward connecting leader from them is considered taking into account the effect of corona space charge near the structures. It is shown that the corona space charge strongly affects the initiation and development of the connecting leader. Specific features of a non-stationary corona are analysed analytically and numerically for one-dimensional electrode geometries and for a grounded rod coronating in a slowly varying thundercloud electric field that can be enhanced by the charge of an approaching downward lightning leader. Initiation and development of an upward connecting leader or upward lightning from high ground objects are investigated. Prospects of using the effect of coronae to control downward lightning discharges are discussed.
[en] A positive leader in air at gap lengths of up to 8 m was studied experimentally on an open experimental stand. The voltage source was a 6-MV pulsed voltage generator or an artificial charged aerosol cloud. The dependence of the leader velocity on the current in the range 0.2-8 A was determined by simultaneously recording the optical picture and electric parameters of the discharge. Particular attention was paid to the final-jump phase of the discharge, when the gap was completely bridged by the streamer zone of the leader. It is shown that the character of the dependence of the leader velocity on the current in this phase remains unchanged; hence, the final-jump phase can be used in experiments in which the current has to be varied within a wide range. For this purpose, one can use a damping resistance, which is inefficient in the initial phase. The parameters of the power-law dependence of the leader velocity on the current at currents of a few amperes are established reliably. It is found that the power-law dependence with constant parameters is inapplicable to calculate the leader velocity at currents of about 0.1 A, which correspond to the lower limit of the leader viability.
[en] Conditions for the propagation in soil of current pulses with an amplitude of up to 85 kA and temporal characteristics typical of a lightning stroke are studied with the help of a specially designed mobile test complex on the basis of a 4-MJ capacitive energy storage with an output voltage of up to 2 MV. In contrast to the conventional opinion that the ionization processes in highly conductive soils are weakly pronounced, a dramatic reduction in the grounding resistance at a resistivity of about 100 Ω m and currents above 10 kA was observed. A time interval in which the grounding resistance is determined by the skin effect in soil is revealed. It is shown that the grounding resistance continues to decrease behind the front of the current pulse due to the continuous growth of spark channels in soil. Time variations in the grounding resistance cannot be related to the formation of a continuous ionization zone near the grounding electrodes and are explained only by the simultaneous growth of several long spark channels extending from the grounding device.