You are on page 1of 7

SECTION I.

Introduction
One of the possibilities of modeling the return-stroke current propagation in the
lightning channel is to represent the lightning channel as a transmission line , .
In this case, currents and voltages at each channel coordinate are calculated from the
solution of

View Source where , and are, respectively, the per-unit-

length inductance, capacitance, resistance, and conductance of the transmission line

assumed to represent the lightning channel, is the axial coordinate specifying

position on the line, and is time. Equations (1) and (2) are the well-known
telegrapher's equations. These equations can be derived directly from Maxwell's
equations, but also from the equivalent circuit shown in Fig. 1, which represents a

Figure 1.

View All

Return-stroke models that represent the return-stroke current propagation as the

solution of (1)and (2) are called either transmission line models  or, equivalently,
distributed-circuit models . The challenge of models of this type is to include, in the
formulation of the per-unit-length parameters associated with (1) and (2), some
aspects that are natural to lightning, such as the predominantly vertical channel
geometry, the presence of the cloud, the nonlinear nature of the channel resistance,
and the deposition of corona charges in the region surrounding the channel core,
among others. Many attempts have been made to accommodate some of the
aforementioned aspects in the modeling of the return-stroke channel as a transmission
line. This paper presents a discussion on recent developments in this field.

SECTION II.
Classification and Overview of Existing Models
Return-stroke models based on transmission line theory can be classified in three
different categories as follows : (a) models that represent the return-stroke current
as the discharge to ground of a previously charged transmission line, referred to as
discharge-type models; (b) models that represent the return-stroke channel as a
transmission line that is excited at its bottom by a lumped source, named lumped-
excitation models; (c) models that use the analogy between the lightning channel and
transmission lines to derive relevant lightning properties, referred to as parameter-
estimation models. A brief overview of models pertaining to categories (a), (b) and (c)
is presented in the following subsections. A more complete review can be found in .

A. Discharge-Type Models
Discharge-type models represent the lightning channel either as a previously charged
transmission line or as a cascade of lumped RLC elements with charged capacitances
[e.g.], –. In both cases, the return-stroke current is
obtained by switching one of the line ends to ground. Models pertaining to this
category have been used to predict the spatial and temporal distribution of the return-
stroke current. However, only a limited number of models were used to predict remote
electromagnetic fields , –.

B. Lumped-Excitation Models
In lumped-excitation models, the lightning channel is represented as a previously
uncharged transmission line that is excited at one end by a lumped source [e.g.], –
. If a lumped current source is used, the channel-base
current is an input parameter of the model. On the other hand, if a lumped voltage
source is used, the channel-base current becomes one of the model outputs. However,
it can be shown that a lumped voltage source can be suitably adjusted to supply a
channel-base current with desired waveform to a nonlinear return-stroke model .
Also, it can be shown that the excitation of an initially uncharged transmission line by
a step voltage is analogous to the discharge to ground of a previously charged
transmission line through the closing of an ideal switch . In general, lumped-
excitation models lead to current and remote electromagnetic fields predictions that
reproduce fairly well most of the observable features of lightning , , –
.

C. Parameter-Estimation Models
In parameter-estimation models, the analogy between the propagation of the return-
stroke current in the lightning channel and the propagation of a current pulse in a
transmission line is used for inferring relevant lightning properties. Examples of
models of this type are found in , .

SECTION III.
Recent Developments in Return-Stroke Models based on
Transmission Line Theory
In this section, a discussion is presented on recent developments in the modeling of the
return-stroke channel using transmission line theory. More attention is given to
models based on the excitation of a previously uncharged transmission line by a
lumped source because this type of model has attracted considerable attention in the
last decade or so. The main focus is on the treatment of the nonuniform nature of the
channel, the treatment of channel losses, and the inclusion of corona.

A. Nonuniform Nature of the Channel

Different formulations for representing the variation of the per-unit-length inductance
and capacitance of a vertical wire excited at its bottom have been proposed for use in
transmission line models of the return stroke. Some examples are shown in Fig. 2,
which illustrates the characteristic impedance associated with a lossless vertical wire
with radius of 1 cm located above a perfectly conducting ground plane, calculated
assuming three different approaches, namely: (1) use of the characteristic impedance

given by

obtained from the application of the charge simulation method (CSM) as

proposed in . All cases lead to an increase of the characteristic impedance with
increasing height. This is associated with the increase of the per-unit-length
inductance and decrease of the per-unit-length capacitance with increasing height. The

variation of and with position indicates that if the transmission line theory is
to be used for representing the surge propagation along a vertical wire, the resulting
transmission line must be nonuniform.

Figure 2.
Characteristic impedance of a lossless vertical wire according to different formulations.

View All

Interestingly, although for unknown reasons the characteristic impedance calculated

with the CSM as proposed in  is much lower than the characteristic impedance
calculated with the other methods, it can be shown that if the vertical wire is excited by
a lumped current source inserted between its bottom end and the ground the resulting
current distributions are not very different for the three formulations considered
in Fig. 2. This is illustrated in Fig. 3, which considers the injection of a 1-kA triangular

at the base of the vertical wire. If a lumped voltage source is used to

excite the channel base instead, the differences in the resulting currents are expected
to be more significant.
In all cases shown in Fig. 3, the nonuniform nature of and leads to the
attenuation of the propagating current with increasing height even in the absence of
losses. This attenuation, which is related to successive reflections taking place in the
channel due to the increase of its characteristic impedance with increasing height,
emulates, to some extent, the non-transverse electromagnetic field structure associated
with the propagation of a current pulse along a vertical wire . It can be shown that
the currents calculated with both Jordan's revised formula and the expression that
gives the characteristic impedance of a conical antenna with very small cone angle are
in good agreement with the predictions of more rigorous electromagnetic
models , .

Figure 3.
Currents calculated at heights of 0, 200, 400, 600 and 800 m (from left to right in the figure) of
a vertical wire excited at its bottom by a lumped current source.

View All

B. Treatment of Channel Losses

In the transition from the leader channel to the return-stroke channel, the channel
resistance is known to decay nonlinearly from a high initial value to a lower value of a
fraction of ohms at later times , , . Nevertheless, early efforts in
representing the lightning channel using transmission line theory assumed a constant
channel resistance –. To the best of the authors' knowledge, the first attempt
of representing the channel resistance as a non-linear parameter in a transmission line
model of the return stroke is found in , where two different types of models were
investigated, both based on Braginskii's theory for the development of a spark
channel . However, no proper model validation or electromagnetic field
predictions were presented in . In , , further attempts of including a nonlinear
resistance in a transmission line model of the return stroke have been made using
either a more complete hydrodynamic model  or a simplified version of Braginskii's
theory . Remote electromagnetic fields were presented in , , but the results
seem inconsistent with measured data.

Recent attempts to include a time-varying resistance in transmission line models of the

return stroke can be found in , , where a per-unit-length resistance that decays
exponentially with time from a high value at early times to a low value at later times is
assumed. Remote lightning electromagnetic fields predicted by the models
in ,  were shown to be in good agreement with measured data. However, it is
implicit in the assumption of a channel resistance that decays exponentially with time
that no actual dependence exists between the shape of the return-stroke current and
the decay pattern of the resistance, which is unrealistic.

In , a comparison of different models to include a time-varying/nonlinear channel

resistance in the calculation of return-stroke currents using transmission line theory is
presented. Three different types of models are considered, namely: (a) models based
on the assumption of an exponential decay for the channel resistance, (b) the use of the
strong-shock approximation proposed by Braginskii  to control the rate of radial
expansion of the channel core, and (c) different arc-resistance equations. It is shown
that models pertaining to classes (b) and (c) are able to lead to similar results
regarding the nonlinear time decay of the resistance at different channel locations. It is
shown that the use of these models leads to predictions of return-stroke speed profiles
and remote lightning electromagnetic fields that behave closer to what seen in nature.
On the other hand, it is also shown that the lack of dependence between the decay
pattern of the channel resistance and the shape of the return-stroke current in models
pertaining to class (a) leads to artifacts in predicted remote electromagnetic fields that
can be mistakenly associated with features typically observed in measured lightning
electromagnetic fields.

Fig. 4 illustrates currents calculated along a straight vertical wire intended to represent
the lightning channel, loaded with a nonlinear resistance controlled by the strong-
shock approximation proposed by Braginskii . The corresponding variation of the
channel resistance with time at various channel heights is shown in Fig. 5. In the

. The vertical wire was excited at its base by a lumped

current source that injected the 11-kA current waveform proposed in . The results
shown in Fig. 4 indicate that the inclusion of a nonlinear channel resistance increases
the attenuation and distortion of the return-stroke current compared to the case where
a lossless channel is considered (see Fig. 3, for example). Although not shown here, it
also leads to a better agreement between predicted and measured lightning
electromagnetic fields as discussed in .

Figure 4.
Currents calculated at heights of 0, 300, 700 and 1100 m (from left to right in the figure) in a
vertical wire loaded with a nonlinear resistance.

View All

C. Inclusion of Corona
Most of the return-stroke models based on transmission line theory consider corona by
means of an increase in the geometrical capacitance of the line. In some cases, this
excess capacitance is assumed to be constant (e.g., ), while in other cases attempts
have been made to include a nonlinear (time-varying) capacitance to accommodate the
various stages of return-stroke development , , . In , a coaxial corona
model was incorporated to a lossless transmission line to study the effect of corona on
the propagation of the return-stroke current. It was shown that in addition to a
nonlinear increase in the channel capacitance, the inclusion of corona in telegrapher's
equations also require the consideration of a time-varying shunt conductance. In ,
the corona model investigated in  was incorporated to a transmission line model of
the return stroke that includes nonlinear losses.

Figure 5.
Variation of the per-unit-length resistance with height and time associated with the case
illustrated in Fig. 4 .

View All

Fig. 6 illustrates channel currents calculated assuming a vertical transmission line in

the presence of both corona and nonlinear losses . The breakdown electric field was
obtained from Peek's formula and a critical electric field for the stable propagation of
streamers of 2 MV/m was considered. In the nonlinear resistance model, an initial

were assumed (see  for details). In comparison with the

case in which only the nonlinear resistance is considered, the inclusion of corona
increases the dispersion of the propagating current and reduces its propagation speed.

Figure 6.
Currents calculated at heights of 0, 300, 600, 900 and 1200 m (from left to right in the figure) in
a vertical wire loaded with a nonlinear resistance considering corona .

View All

SECTION IV.
Remote Eletromagnetic Field Predictions and Model
Applications
Few return-stroke models based on transmission line theory have been properly
validated through comparisons between calculated and measured remote lightning
electromagnetic fields , , , . Overall, the simultaneous consideration of
corona and nonlinear losses in the representation of the lightning channel as a
transmission line allows for the reproduction of most of (if not all) the observable
features of measured lightning electromagnetic fields , . In particular, their
simultaneous consideration leads to close vertical electric fields presenting a flat
profile and a decay with distance that are consistent with measurements performed in
triggered lightning experiments . As an example, Fig. 7 illustrates the vertical
electric field waveform corresponding to the currents shown in Fig. 6, calculated 50 m
far from the channel.
Figure 7.
Vertical electric field calculated at 50 m from the channel assuming the current distribution
shown in Fig. 6.

View All

Transmission line models of the return stroke have been applied to evaluate direct
lightning hits and the interaction of lightning with tall objects and aircrafts
[e.g.], , . More recent efforts include new evaluations of the interaction of
lightning with tall objects  and the calculation of lightning-induced voltages on