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Lightning Interaction with Lighter-Than-Air Platforms
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Understanding the behavior of lightning and modeling its physical effects is of great importance with regard to structures subjected to lightning strikes. In this study, a two-dimensional physics-based model that was formulated for analyzing the effect of thunderstorm cloud-cover on grounded airborne bodies is refined and enhanced in order to adequately represent different types of airborne bodies. The model’s solution domain consists of two non-concentric circles, the larger of which represents the atmospheric boundary and the smaller of which represents the cross-section of the grounded airborne structure. The new contributions to this model presented here allow for the accommodation of physical geometries that are elliptical in nature. Due to the variability of cross-sectional dimensions of lighter-than-air platforms (many of which are non-circular), it is desirable to represent the effect that a non-circular domain has on lightning behavior and its associated influences. To accomplish this, a transformation relation was developed in order to map a noncircular physical body to the circular solution space. The problem is solved in the circular domain, then transformed back into the physical, non-circular domain. The associated influences due to the lightning behavior including the charge induced on the grounded airborne body, the lightning collection area, probable leader attachment point, and the flash rate on the airborne structure are also modified considering elliptical geometry. Furthermore, analysis of satellite and ground-based data was performed as part of this study. Methods for the incorporation of site-specific environmental parameters were developed in order to give a clear understanding of the effect of regional and seasonal variation in environmental effects. The types of data investigated were ground flash density, lightning strike peak current, sea-surface wind speed, and sea-surface temperature. lightning interaction with elliptical cross-sections of grounded airborne bodies was shown to vary with dimensional changes of the body. The calculated values shown to vary with geometry include lightning collection area, lightning strike frequency on the elevated airborne body, surface charge induced along the surface of the airborne body, and the probability of leader attachment.
Milan, Maxwell (2018). Lightning Interaction with Lighter-Than-Air Platforms. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from