[AMRadio] Somewhat Off topic - lightning protection

Kim Elmore Kim.Elmore at noaa.gov
Tue Jul 13 13:40:11 EDT 2004

In cases like this "ground potential" is a relative term due to ground 
currents.  The resistance of the ground itself can cause large potential 
gradients over short distances.  This is exactly why it's possible to get 
killed by lighting without being directly hit: the potential across the 
distance between your feet can be more than sufficient to generate a 
voltage that the soles of your shoes cannot withstand. Peak currents in a 
cloud-to-ground strike can be exceed 50 kA on a regular basis and it 
doesn't take much R to get a big E with that I. The currents involved are 
truly mind-boggling.

The advice your brother got is essentially correct: a *very* conductive 
grid needs to be installed all around the protected site such that large 
currents will not induce large voltage gradients.  Copper sulfate won't do. 
Experimental weather radars I've seen are protected against lightning with 
a 00 ga copper wire mesh within the ground (3-5' deep) with many ground 
rods, all bonded together using thermite.  A very coarse heavy-wire grid 
above the radar dish elevation acts as pseudo Faraday cage. Everything 
needs to be bonded together and then bonded to this heavy ground to be 
protected. Lightning protection is an expensive proposition and has to be 
weighed against the potential losses, but a professional analysis and 
installation is probably the best way to go.

Kim Elmore, N5OP

At 11:29 AM 7/13/2004, you wrote:
>This is somewhat off-topic, however the issue of lightning protection is 
>important, and knowing how knowledgeable our
>members are, I thought someone might have a solution to the following 
>My brother has a very expensive telescope in an observatory located on 
>Petit Jean Mtn. in Arkansas.  His telescope has a
>computerized tracking and "GoTo" system built into the base of the mount 
>which is mounted to a steel pier.  The steel
>pier is bolted to a 14 ton concrete substructure that is about 5 feet in 
>the ground under the floor.  The concrete
>section has lots of rebar and iron meshing inside of it.
>Lightning has taken out his computer control in the base three times in 
>less than a year.  The last two times, nothing
>was plugged into the unit so the base was simply at ground potential.  It 
>appears that because of the bedrock
>characteristics of this mountain, he is getting hit from the ground 
>itself.  I can't think of any other way.
>Someone emailed him the message below this morning as a possible solution, 
>however I would be more inclined to install a
>tower or something a bit further to serve as a lightning rod.  Maybe even 
>treat the ground around the tower with Copper
>Sulfate to something similar to help give it a good ground.  The 
>suggestion below about running a copper perimeter 10'
>around his observatory seems like it might add to the problem.  10 feet 
>does not sound like enough distance to be
>absorbing a direct hit of lightning.  Since the base of the scope and the 
>pier are both metal, there is really no way to
>isolate the telescope computer away from this.  It is much too heavy to 
>use nylon bolts and an insulating pad between
>the pier and concrete.
>Any ideas or suggestions?
>Thanks & 73,
>Brian / w5ami
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "P. Clay Sherrod" <drclay at arksky.org>
>To: <brian at arksky.org>
> > No way at all....in fact I am convinced now that the lightening is 
> coming up through the
> > ground.
> > I talked to an electronics guy yesterday (he owns SoundCraft) that 
> suggested I build a #3
> > copper perimeter ground around the base of the observatory, about 10 
> feet away from the
> > walls with grounding rods on two opposing corners.....he says the 
> problem up here is that
> > you cannot get a proper ground on this mountain because of the rock.
> >
>AMRadio mailing list
>AMRadio at mailman.qth.net

                           Kim Elmore, Ph.D.
                        University of Oklahoma
         Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies
"All of weather is divided into three parts: Yes, No, and Maybe. The
greatest of these is Maybe" The original Latin appears to be garbled.

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