The lightning ground flash : an engineering study.
The thesis is concerned with a study of the electrical engineering parameters of the lightning ground flash - i.e. the statistical distributions of peak current amplitudes, discharge current waveform characteristics, and flash striking distances - in the event of flashes to practical engineering structures. In view of its predominating frequency of occurrence in practical situations, the discharge of primary concern is the downward progressing and negatively charged ground flash. A central feature of this work is the establishment of a lightning research station (incorporating a 60 m instrumented mast) in the Transvaal highveld region of South Africa. The design of this station and the related measurement techniques are fully described. Preliminary results accumulated over a 6-year period of observation are presented, and include recordings obtained during direct strikes to the mast, as well as data from associated measurements of additional thunderstorm and lightning parameters. The latter studies include the use of closed circuit television video recordings, together with electrostatic field mills and lightning flash counters. Analysis of the resultant data serves to provide a comprehensive characterisation of the thunderstorm and lightning climatology in the region - on the basis of electrical activity. With only few exceptions, it is concluded that the characteristics of lightning observed in the. Transvaal region are generally consistent with the trends of data from other regions of the world. A unique aspect of the project is a study of lightning striking distances. An attempt to estimate these distances using bi-directional photography of flashes to the research mast is described, and several preliminary results are also presented - in conjunction with the associated measurements of discharge current amplitude. These results are compared with previously used relationships between striking distance and peak current.