Toward Better Understanding of Sprite Streamers: Initiation, Morphology, and Polarity Asymmetry

Victor P. Pasko, Jianqi Qin, Sebastien Celestin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This paper presents a literature survey on the recent developments related to modeling studies of transient luminous events termed sprites and sprite halos that are produced at mesospheric and lower ionospheric altitudes in the Earth's atmosphere by lightning. The primary emphasis is placed on publications that appeared in the refereed literature starting from year 2010 and up to the present date. The survey focuses on the interpretation of morphological features observed in sprites. We introduce parameters typically used for quantitative description of electron avalanches and discuss the importance of space charge effects on different spatial scales, including sprite halos (exhibiting 10s of km transverse extents) and sprite streamers (requiring submeter resolution for accurate description). A special emphasis is placed on the interpretation of initiation and development of sprite streamers captured in high-speed video observations and a critical review of the most recent modeling efforts related to these observations. We also discuss fundamental reasons for polarity asymmetry in existing sprite observations indicating that vast majority of sprites with well-developed streamer structure are produced by positive cloud-to-ground lightning discharges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-830
Number of pages34
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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