Journal article

On the Measurement and Calculation of Horizontal Electric Fields From Lightning

In this paper, we discuss two issues related to the measurement and calculation of the horizontal electric fields from lightning. On the one hand, there is an inherent difficulty inmeasuring the horizontal electric field component from lightning because of the overshadowing effect of the vertical electric field component which, depending on the distance to the lightning channel, the ground conductivity, and the height of the observation point can be one to two orders of magnitude larger than the horizontal electric field component. Consequently, even a small tilt of the measuring antenna would result in a noticeable contamination of the measured horizontal waveform. This may explain the fact that data on horizontal electric fields are very scarce. Numerical simulations show that, for a ground conductivity of 0.0025 S/m, the resulting error for a one-degree sensor tilt in the field peak is about 20% for distances ranging from 60 to 500 m. For strikes to a 100-m-tall tower, the resulting errors are found to be slightly smaller (about 10% to 15% for the first peak). The second issue dealt with in this paper is the computationmethods of the horizontal electric field. In this regard, some authors have emphasized the importance of taking into account the so-called conduction current in the calculation of nearby horizontal electric fields. We show in this paper that the conducted contribution is automatically taken into account when using the general solutions of Maxwell's equations or obtained by exact numerical simulations. In this case, there is no need to consider separately any other contributions because the solution yields the total horizontal electric field, taking into account both the radiation from the channel and the current flowing into the ground. However, a "conducted contribution" needs indeed to be taken into account separately when high-frequency approximate solutions are used for the evaluation of the electric field. At very close distances to the lightning strike location, the current distribution in the ground may be highly nonuniform because of surface arcing and plasma channel formations. Given the random nature of these phenomena, it is virtually impossible to gain detailed knowledge of the current distribution and, hence, to evaluate the resulting horizontal electric field near the strike point. Based on the results and discussion presented in this paper, we recommend taking special care when measuring the horizontal electric field from lightning to minimize the contaminating effect of the vertical electric field. It is important that both components (vertical and horizontal) be measured simultaneously to evaluate possible contamination of the horizontal field.


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