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Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) Observations of the Brightest Lightning in the Americas
  • Michael Jay Peterson,
  • Erin H Lay
Michael Jay Peterson
ISR-2,Los Alamos National Laboratory

Corresponding Author:michaeljp24@gmail.com

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Erin H Lay
Los Alamos National Laboratory (DOE)
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Two years of Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) science data are used to document the brightest lighting flashes observed on the Americas continent. The most radiant optical lightning emissions – termed “superbolts” – were first identified by our Vela satellite constellation in the 1970s (Turman, 1977) and are defined in terms of peak optical power. GLM is an integrating sensor that, instead, measures the total optical energy from a lightning pulse. While GLM might not correctly classify short-duration energetic superbolts, its top lightning cases certainly fall in the superbolt category, and the wealth of GLM measurements over its stationary hemispheric field of view provide an unmatched sample of extraordinarily bright lightning. While radiant bolts in excess of 100x the optical energy of typical lightning are ubiquitous across the Americas and result from many types of lightning processes, we find the most radiant cases (>1000x) are concentrated in the central United States and in the La Plata basin in South America. Coincident Earth Networks Global Lightning Network (ENGLN) observations reveal that these extremely bright emissions usually result from +CG strokes with high peak currents in long horizontal flashes outside of the convective core. Single cases of these megaflashes might produce multiple superbolts over their durations.