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Lightning Discharges and Transient Luminous Events

   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 atmosphere that remains an enigma to date despite intensive research. Lightning discharges are used as an indicator for the now-casting of severe weather, significantly affects the concentration of greenhouse gases, and threatens electrical and electronic devices. Yet, our fundamental under-standing of atmospheric electricity is far from complete. For example, new discharge processes above thunderclouds have been discovered which are collectively known as transient luminous events and terrestrial gamma ray flashes that emit beams of antimatter.

This project investigates the relationship between electromagnetic waves from transient luminous events and their causative lightning discharges in different parts of the spectrum. In particular, the optical emissions from transient luminous events are recorded from the vantage point of space for comparison with the radio waves emitted by the causative lightning discharges and subsequent transient luminous events that are recorded on the ground. The comparison at different wavelengths yields critical information on the physical processes associated with transient luminous events.

These research challenges are approached within the SAINT project (Science And INnovation with Thunderstorms) supported by the European Commission. SAINT is a coordinated program of research that includes 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 atmospheric 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 discharges 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 agencies.

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) Franz et al., Television image of a large upward electrical discharge above a thunderstorm system, Science, 1990, doi: 10.1126/science. 249.4964.48
(2) Pasko et al., Electrical discharge from a thundercloud top to the lower ionosphere, Nature, 2002, doi: 10.1038/416152a
(3) Neubert et al., On sprites and their exotic kin, Science, 2003, doi: 10.1126/science.1083006
(4) Fullekrug et al., Sprites, Elves and Intense Lightning Discharges, Springer, Dordrecht/Netherlands, 2004.
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