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Francis J. Merceret, Jennifer G. Ward, Douglas M. Mach, Monte G. Bateman, and James E. Dye

Abstract

Electric-field measurements made in and near clouds during two airborne field programs are presented. Aircraft equipped with multiple electric-field mills and cloud physics sensors were flown near active convection and into thunderstorm anvil and debris clouds. The magnitude of the electric field was measured as a function of position with respect to the cloud edge to provide an observational basis for modifications to the lightning launch commit criteria (LLCC) used by the U.S. space program. These LLCC are used to reduce the risk that an ascending launch vehicle will trigger a lightning strike that could cause the loss of the mission or vehicle. Even with fields of tens of kV m−1 inside electrically active convective clouds, the fields external to these clouds decay to less than 3 kV m−1 within 15 km of cloud edge. Fields that exceed 3 kV m−1 were not found external to anvil and debris clouds.

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