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2, MARCH 1997

Numerical Modeling of Lightning Based on

the Traveling Wave Equations
Chang-Chou Hwang

Department of Electrical Engineering, Feng Chia University

100 Wenhwa Road, Seatwen, Taichung,Taiwan,R.O.C.

Abstract-In this paper a traveling wave model for describing 11. A TRAVELING-WAVE MODEL
the lightning stroke i s developed. Finite clement method is used
to derive the element equations and one -dimensional linear Basically, lightning stroke is an electromagnetic wave and
elements are used to discretize the field region. The implicit can be determined by the use of traveling wave equations[7].
Newmark time integration algorithm is employed to obtain the Suppose the discharge channel within a thundercloud is fully
recurrence formulas for the solution of field variables at each developed, then it will behave like the spark discharge
time step. Numerical examples arc included and illustrated. between two flat plates forming a condenser that is in effect
shorted out by a central conductor. Hence, a useful concept is
I. INTRODUCTION to think of the cloud and earth as forming a vast capacitor
which is being discharged by the stroke[5],[7]. Propagation of
Lightning can be defined as a transient, high-current electromagnetic wave along the path can be treated as a
electric discharge which is very fast phenomenon. For many circuit problem[7], and voltage V(x,t) and current i(x,tj
years, a lot of studies have been made on this subject. Some satisfy the equation set (1)
have been concerned simply with collecting statistics[ 11,
some with making measurements[2], and others have tried to (14
probe more deeply into the physical nature of the problems[3].
From their efforts we can understand more about this
mysterious process. It is now generally accepted that a typical - ai(x,t> = C a v ( x , t > + GV ( g ) (Ib)
dX dt
lightning stroke begins with the propagation of a negatively
Where R, G, L, and C represent the per unit length resistance,
charged channel, called a stepped leader, from cloud to the
conductance, inductance, and capacitance of the path
ground. But before this downward leader reaches the ground,
an upward leader begins to proceed from the ground and
Assume that the energy lose due to the conductance term is
meets the downward-moving leader at the junction point.
small compared to the other equations, and (1 a) and (1b) are
Once the stepped leader has established a connection to earth,
combined, then both voltage wave and current wave satisfy
the so-called return stroke moves swiftly up the ionized
the following hyperbolic equation
channel prepared by the stepped leader like a traveling wave
on a high-voltage transmission line and a heavy current
occurs[4],[5]. However, the physical models derived from the
We can see that the frst term on the right-hand side
experimental data or fiom the information determined directly
from experimental data have often been obtained more on the represents the energy dissipation associated with the wave
basis of intuition than on the basis of detailed quantitative propagation process, and the second term represents the
inertia of the time-dependent motion. For the problem
analysis[6]. In this paper a traveling-wave model is used to
describe the lightning stroke behavior [7], and then the fmite statement to be complete, the boundary and initial conditions
element method is employed to solve it. An analysis such as need to be specified. Let us consider the voltage wave
this requires the determination of the time-dependent spatial equation of (2). The voltage at the ground is assumed to be
distributions of an unknown field variable. It is usual to use zero while the current at the cloud is assumed to be a small
the partial discretization procedure which replaces the constant value which is taken to be zero[7]. Hence, the
original partial differential equation by a system of second- boundary conditions are
order ordinary differential equations[8]. This set can be V ( 0 ,t ) = 0 ( 3a)
solved by an implicit time integration method, the Newmark i(h,t) = 0 (3b)
alogrithm[9]. Once we have obtained the voltage distribution At t=O, the voltage distribution is assumed to be a known
in terms of both time and space, we can then determine the constant value except at the ground where it is zero. Hence
current waveform. the initial condition are
V(x,O)= vo (4a)
a ( x , 0 ) / dt = 0 (4b)
Manuscript received March 17,1996

0018-9464/97$10.00 0 1997 IEEE


Once the voltage distribution has been solved, the solution of

current involves the integration of (lb) using (3b) as an initial

Several approaches can be used to construct finite element

equation for (2). We consider the problem at one instant of
It is evident that two initial conditions { V } and { $ }

time and we assume that the time derivatives such as; and;' are known and ';{ } can be obtained in terms of {V}
at that instant of time are functions of spatial coordinates
only[S]. By employing the standard finite element procedures
and {G} fi-om (5). In (9), {V } on the left-hand side
is unknown and all the terms on the right-hand side are known,
[9] we get ordinary differential equations of the form hence (9) represents the recurrence formula for solving
[MI{;'} + [ 0 l { h+ [ K I { V } = (0) (51 {V} at the end of a time step. Consequently, the
Where Newmark algorithm is implicit, and we must solve a set of
simultaneous equations at each time step. It is unconditionally
stable for a = 1 I 2 and p = 114, which means that we can
and the whole matrix can be found in [9]. choose a time step without concern for computational
instability, but we must consider the effects of time step size
IV. SOLVING TIME-DEPENDENT EQUATIONS on solution accuracy. In this paper the time step is chosen
The finite element solution of the voltage wave equation (2) as A t s A x m ,where Ax is a spatial element length.
reduces ultimately to solve the set of differential equations (5).
There are several methods for numerically solving (5). In this V. RESULTS
paper we use the Newmark beta method in time domain to
generate a numerical solution [ 101. To illustrate and validate the method described above,
The Newmark beta equations for the voltage and its results of an example study are presented. Suppose we
represent the cloud and earth as a capacitor having parallel
derivative at time t A t are
plates of circular shape with a radius of lkm, and let
r .. ..
{V),+A, = {VI, + { v } r A t + [ ( 1 - P ) { Q } t + P { V ) , + A , ] A/~2~
(6a) discharge channel be 20cm in diameter. Three heights of
cloud are considered. Table I shows the inductances and
capacitances for each case[5]. If the resistance of the channel
is greater than Z, then it would damp the discharge [7].
where a and p are parameters that control the stability and Fig.l(a), (b), and (c) show the cloud voltages versus time for
accuracy of the method. We obtain the recurrence formula by three channel resistances of each cloud height. It is seen that

writing (5) at time t + ~t , the magnitude of voltage waveform is directly proportional to
the channel resistance. Fig.2(a), (b), and (c) show the cloud
voltage versus time for three cloud heights of each channel
From (6a), { } can be expressed as resistance. It is seen that the magnitude of voltage waveform
is directly_proportional
.. to the cloud height. It can be also seen
2 that the cloud voltage drops quickly in the first 15
{ V l r + b= ~ [ { v } , -+{VIt~ -t ($1, At - (1 - P){p>tAt2/ 21 (8) microseconds and then decreases slowly. Fig.3(a), (b), and (c)
PAt show the cloud currents versus time for three channel
Substituting (8) into (6b) we express ;{ f+L\I in terms of resistances of each cloud height. It is seen that the magnitude
of current waveform is inversely proportional to the channel
{v 1,+at and other vectors. Finally, substituting for resistance. Fig.4(a), (b), and (c) show the cloud current versus
{V 1 [ + A t and {v 1 '+At
time for three cloud heights of each channel resistance. It is
(7) permits us to write the seen that the current waveform is inversely proportional to the
recurrence formula in telXlS O f LUl effective stiffness and load ,-loud height. It be also Seen that the cloud rises
vector, abruptly to its maximum value but decays slowly[5],[7]. In
[H]{V}I + AI = { R } I + Af (9) the simulation we divide the problem, for the cloud height of
Where the effective stiffness matrix is lOOOm case into 120 elements with a time step of 1.0
(loa) microsecond which is less than A r a =32.4 microseconds.
and the effective load vector is TABLE I. VALUES OF INDUCTANCE AND CAPACITANCE


Height(x) 250 m 500 m 1000 m

Inductance(L) 1.85 mH 2.02 mH 2.18 mH
Capacitance(C) 27.80pF 13.90 pF 6.95 pF
",2 516 762 1120

1 .oo

0 00 20 00 40 00 60 0 0 60 00 100 00
Time m microsecond

0 80 (a) Channel resistance is 2000 R




0 40

0 00 20 00 40 00 60 00 80 0 0 1 0 0 00
Time in microsecond

(a) Cloud height is 250 m

1 .oo

0 80


0 60

0 00 20 00 40 00 6 0 00 80 00 100 00
Time III microsecond

(b) Cloud height is 500 m 0.20


B 0.80




0 00 2 0 00 40 00 60 00 80 00 3 0 0 00
Time III microsecond
(c) Cloud height is 1000 m
Fig.1 Cloud voltages vs time for three channel resistances

1 .oo





0.00 20 00 40.00 60.00 80.00 100.00 0 00 20 00 40 00 60 00 80 00 100 00
Time in microsecond Time in microsecond
(b) Cloud height is 500 m (c) Channel resistance is 5000 $2
1 .oo
Fig.4 Cloud currents vs time for three cloud heights

0 80

0.60 The traveling wave equation for modeling the lightning

stroke has been presented. Finite element .method and the
0.40 Newmark beta scheme are used to generate a numerical
solution. The results obtained are reasonable. It is to be
expected that the work will be further extended to be of
practical use in the study of the lightning stroke.
0 00 20 00 40 00 60 00 80 00 1 0 0 00 REFERENCES
Time Ln mlerosecond

(c) Cloud height is 1000 m

K. Berger, “Novel Observations on lightning Discharges:Results of
Fig.3 Cloud currents vs time for three channel resistances
1 00 Research on Mount San Salvatore,” J. Franklin Inst., 283, pp.478-525,
0 80 P. Willianms and M. Brook, “Magnetic Measurement of
Thunderstorm Currents, pt. 1, Continuing Currents in Lightning,”
J.Geophys. Res.,68, pp.3234-3247, 1963
0 60
M. Brook, N. Kitagawa and E. J. Workman, “Quantitative Study of
Strokes and Continuing Currents in Lightning Discharges to ground,”
0 40
J. Geophys. Res.,67,pp649-659,1962.
K. Berge, “Lightning Surges,” Proceedings of Brown Boveri,
0 20
Symposium on Surges in High- Voltage Networks, Baden, Switzerland,
Plenum Press, pp.25-62, Sep. 1979.
0 00 N. Greenwood, Electrical Transients in Power Systems, 2nd Ed., John
0.00 20.00 40.00 60.00 80.00 100.00
Time in microsecond Wiley&Sons, New York, 1991.
(a) Channel resistance is 2000 $2 M. A. Uman, “Natural Lightning,” IEEE Trans. IA, vo1.30, No.3,
1 .oo
pp785-790, May/June 1994.
R. Rudecberg, Electrical Shock Wave in Power Systems, Harvard
University Press, Cam. Mass., 1968.
V. Kantorovitch, V. I. Krylov, Approximation Methods of Higher
0.60 Analysis, Interscience, New York, 1964.
C. Zienkiewicz, The Finite Element Method, 3rd ed., McGraw-Hill,
0.40 New York, 1977.
M. Newmark, “A Method of Computation for Structure Dynamics,” J.
Eng. Mech. Div. ASCE, vol. 85, NO. EM3, pp.67-94, 1959.

0.00 20.00 40.00 60.00 80.00 100.00
Time in microsecond

(b)Channel resistance is 3000 Q