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TGF-MEPPA Report Summary

Project ID: 320839
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Norway

Final Report Summary - TGF-MEPPA (Terrestrial Gamma Flashes-the Most Energetic Photon Phenomenon in our Atmosphere)

With the ERC funding we have built a strong engineering team for instrument development and a cross-disciplinary research group, covering all the expertise needed to establish and consolidate ourselves in the forefront of international research related to lightning discharges and production of hard radiation from thunderclouds. The TGF MEPPA project has had two scientific elements, one was to perform experiments at different distances from electric discharges, and the second was to analyze the results from these experiments combined with theory and modeling. We have delivered on both. The Modular X- and Gamma-ray Sensor for Atmosphere-Space-Interaction-Monitor was successfully launched to the International Space Station April 2, 2018, and is now giving us unprecedented data of X- and gamma-rays from thunderstorms. The PI of TGF-MEPPA is Co-Investigator on ASIM. In the spring of 2017 we flew a gamma-ray detector on an aircraft campaign at 20 km altitude. This was the first time observation from this altitude directly over lightning activity has been obtained. We have performed several laboratory electric discharge experiments in Eindhoven and Barcelona.
The TGF-MEPPA project has delivered several “firsts”. We were the first to report on the sequence of radio, optical and gamma-rays signals from thunderstorms (Østgaard et al., 2013), we were the first to perform an aircraft campaign at 20 km altitude directly above lightning activity, we were the first to detect gamma-glows (minute long) from above thundercloud, we were the first to report the detection of relativistic electrons from laboratory experiments of electric discharges (Østgaard et al., 2016) and we were the first to perform a detailed analysis with fast cameras on nanosecond time scale of the streamer formation in laboratory sparks, the so-called “pilot systems” (Kochkin et al., 2016). We have also developed novel methods to identify many more TGFs in existing datasets (Østgaard et al., 2015, Marisaldi et al., 2015). We have carried out modeling efforts of streamer properties trying to understand how electrons can be accelerated to relativistic energies in the laboratory (Lehtinen et al., 2018), but this is still an open question for the community. We have also carried out modeling of the suggested scenarios for producing TGFs (Skeltved et al. 2014; 2017) and found that they both require extreme thunderstorm charging to explain observations. We have published 29 papers in peer-reviewed journals, given 84 presentations at international meetings, of which 13 were invited. TGF-MEPPA has produced 2 PhD theses and 5 Master theses. We have organized 10 sessions at AGU and EGU meetings and played a major role in 2 research schools organized within the European network projects, TEA-IS and SAINT, in which we have been active partners. The PI of TGF-MEPPA has been in the leader group of both networks. Our team members have received prestigious awards, such as Fulbright stipend, Yara´s Birkeland Prize and the PI was invited UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to give a report on our scientific achievements. Our scientific results has been highlighted by AGU press release and Journal of Physics as the “image of the week”. Our public outreach efforts have lead to hundreds of media coverage, both news media, radio and TV, with the ASIM launch as the absolute number one – more than 300 in Europe. We can be found via our web-page (,
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