Lightning detection

Starting date: 8-9-2003
Status: Running
Instrumentation and calibration: At ICO-OV, the monitoring of lightning activity is currently carried out by the BOLTEK - StormTracker© system. By using an antenna, this system picks up the electro-magnetic pulses generated by lightning strikes. Each of these strike signal is analyzed by the software NEXSTORM© which localize the lightning in a geographical position. The hardware detection efficiency is about (85 ± 6)% for CG strikes and (20 ± 5) % for IC strikes. The detection efficiency greatly decrease (particularly for IC strike) with increasing distance from the measurement site. The efficiency in identifying CG or IC strikes ranges from 70% to 90% (nevertheless, differentiation between +CG and -IC can be less accurate).
Project affiliation (s) Present: SHARE
Related research programmes

  • Tropospheric background condition
  • Long-range transport

Why is this research important? Every day millions of lightning strokes occur over the World. Even if until today the physics of lightning is still not completely understood, it is recognised that lightning is one of the most important (NOx) sources in the upper troposphere, thus the continuous lightning monitoring represents a valuable activity for climate investigation. In fact, nitrogen oxides (NOx) have a strong impact on the chemistry in the atmosphere. In particular, NOx is an important catalyst for the ozone (O3) production. The impact of NOx on atmosphere properties and climate is particularly important in the free troposphere because of its longer lifetime (about 5 days). When a lightning stroke occurs, in and near the hot lightning channel (30,000 K), oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2) are partly dissociated to O and N followed by NO formation due to the reaction between O and N2 or N and O2. Thanks to the rapid cooling (only a few seconds) of the lightning channel to temperatures below 2000 K, a large portion of the produced NO is "frozen-in". Then, NO is further oxidized to NO2 by reaction with O3.

Quick look Visit the ICO-OV on-line lightning detection page

Where can I find the data? By direct request to: p.cristofanelli [at]
Organization (s): ISAC-CNR Via Gobetti 101, I-40129, Bologna
Contact persons: Dr. Paolo Cristofanelli e-mail: p.cristofanelli [at] phone: +39 051 6399597