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The altitude of sprites observed over South Africa

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Article number7941
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>29/01/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>South African Journal of Science
Issue number1-2
Volume117
Number of pages8
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Sprites are mesospheric optical emissions that are mostly produced by large, positive cloud-to-ground lightning discharges. Sprites appear in different morphologies such as carrot, jellyfish and column, and are typically in the altitude range of ~40–100 km above the Earth’s surface. Sprites are a subset of transient luminous events and they contribute to the global electric circuit. South Africa has large convective thunderstorms, which typically occur in the summer months of every year. Peak current, time and geographical position of lightning strokes were obtained from the South African Weather Service. Sprite observations were recorded in South Africa for the first time on 11 January 2016 from Sutherland in the Northern Cape using a night-vision television camera from the South African National Space Agency’s Optical Space Research laboratory. We report the first estimates of the top altitude, and the altitude of maximum brightness, of 48 sprites over South Africa. We found that the average top altitude and the altitude of maximum brightness of sprites are approximately 84.3 km and 69 km, respectively, which is consistent with estimates made elsewhere. We also found a moderately high positive and a weak positive correlation between the top altitude and the altitude of maximum brightness, respectively, of sprites and the lightning stroke charge moment change. © 2021. The Author(s).