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Objectives and Benefits

The main objective of the Action was to increase the knowledge of the physics of the lightning discharge and of its effects on natural and man-made systems. This will include the following sub-objectives, but not limited to them.

  • To understand and model the different physical processes in the lightning channel.
  • To understand and model the lightning attachment to objects.
  • Measurement of characteristics of lightning flashes in Europe and an establishment of a data bank on the lightning parameters, including a databank on the characteristics of the electromagnetic radiation of lightning from ELF to gamma rays.
  • Develop models for the inverse source problem in lightning, that is, inferring the characteristics of the processes in the lightning channel from remote measurements of the electromagnetic waves associated with lightning.
  • To understand the mechanism of the production of the trace gas species in the atmosphere by the hot plasma channel and corona in lightning discharge.
  • To understand the connection between the particular characteristics of lightning flashes and the associated observation of luminous events in the mesosphere and the lower ionosphere.


Fulfilling the above objectives would increase knowledge of the most important scientific issues in lightning research, as listed in Section A, namely, the phenomenology of processes in the lightning flash, lightning initiation in thunderclouds, mechanism of lightning stepped leader and dart leader, mechanism of lightning attachment to objects,
mechanism of lightning return stroke, mechanism of X-rays and gamma-rays emission associated with lightning, mechanism of ball lightning, mechanism of trace gas species production by lightning, and the connection between lightning and upper luminous events in the atmosphere. In addition, increased knowledge of the physics of lightning would help several scientists and engineers in devising better strategies for protecting sensitive systems from the deleterious effects of lightning and to understand the impact of lightning on the chemistry of the atmosphere and on the global electric circuit. The advance in the physics of lightning would also allow better ways to forecast and observe lightning in connection with specific weather structure or processes.

Scientific Programme

The most important research tasks to be carried out for achieving the objectives are described below. For clarity, the research tasks are grouped under different headings, which naturally will become the focus of each Working Group. The Working Groups are:


WG1. Measurement of properties of various types of lightning discharges.


WG2. Phenomenology and modelling of the processes in the lightning flash.


WG3. Physics and models for the lightning attachment to objects.


WG4. Inverse source problems in lightning.


More Information

You can find more information in the Action website or read the Final Report.