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Exceptional Lightning Discharges - Investigation of the properties of outstanding discharge processes

   Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering

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  Dr Martin Fullekrug  Applications accepted all year round

About the Project

Lightning is an extremely energetic electric discharge process in our at-mosphere that remains an enigma to date despite intensive research. Lightning discharges are used as an indicator for the now-casting of se-vere weather, significantly affects the concentration of greenhouse gas-es, and threatens electrical and electronic devices. Yet, our fundamental under-standing of atmospheric electricity is far from complete. For exam-ple, new discharge processes above thunderclouds have been discov-ered which are collectively known as transient luminous events and ter-restrial gamma ray flashes that emit beams of antimatter.

This project investigates the properties of exceptional lightning dis-charges. In particular, the polarity, intensity, and the spatial and temporal evolution of outstanding discharges processes will be determined. These important properties of lightning flashes are inferred from the re-mote sensing with radio wave measurements. The radio waves are rec-orded with arrays of radio receivers on various spatial scales ranging from thousands of km down to just one km. These measurements of ra-dio waves on different scales are used to determine critically important information on the physical processes associated with exceptional light-ning discharges.

These research challenges are approached within the SAINT project (Science And INnovation with Thunderstorms) supported by the Euro-pean Commission. SAINT is a coordinated program of research that in-cludes satellite and ground observations, modelling and lab experiments – mostly from a geophysical perspective, but with strong interfaces to plasma technology and relevant industries. The SAINT consortium is composed of 10 academic institutions and 9 industrial partners and it employs 15 PhD students to integrate leading techniques from different sectors toward an investigation of the fundamental mechanisms of at-mospheric discharges.

The successful candidate will participate in meetings with the teams around two novel space missions, the Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (ASIM) of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the micro-satellite TARANIS of the French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), and gain insights into the next generation of lightning imagers on-board of geostationary satellites (GOES-R, MTG and FY-4).

The project is allied by field work in southern Europe, summer schools and training events throughout the duration of the project. In particular, the projects entails measurements, analysis and interpretation of the electro-magnetic waves (optical and radio) emitted by lightning dis-charges and transient luminous events.

At the end of the project, the successful candidate will be able to plan and conduct complex projects and manage the implications of research toward applications in industry and for the needs of governmental agen-cies.

The successful candidate will have a first class degree in science, e.g., phys-ics (astronomy, plasma physics, geoscience, meteorology), mathematics, or electronic and electrical engineering and is interested and fit to partic-ipate in demanding field work in southern Europe.

Funding Notes

The project offers full employment at the University of Bath (£23,500 basic salary + £4,217 mobility allowance) through the European Commission and the Science And INnovation with Thunderstorms (SAINT) project . The position is open to applicants from around the world, with the limitation that at the time of recruitment by the University of Bath, researchers must not have resided or carried out their main activity (work, studies, etc.) in the UK for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to the reference date.

Preferred start date: Between March-September 2017, flexible to suit the successful candidate.


(1) Rison et al., Observations of narrow bipolar events reveal how lightning is initiated in thunderstorms, Nature Communications, 2016, doi: 10.1038/ncomms10721
(2) Fullekrug et al., Mapping lightning in the sky with a mini array, Geophysical Research Letters, 2016, doi: 10.1002/2016GL070737
(3) Rakov and Uman, Lightning – Physics and Effects, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2003.
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