Kenneth L. Cummins


Kenneth Cummins is a research professor in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona; a research scientist in the Department of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology; and the chairperson of NASA’s Lightning Advisory Panel, which establishes the Lightning Launch Commit Criteria for commercial and government space launches. He received his B.S.E.E. from the University of California, Irvine and his M.S. and Ph.D.E.E. from Stanford University.

Dr. Cummins’s current research is focused in two broad areas: applied research on the physics and phenomenology of lightning, and on the use of ground-based electromagnetic sensing in support of the world’s first geostationary lightning mapper onboard GOES-16 and 17. His recent work on lightning physics and phenomenology includes the use of multiple high-speed cameras, lightning locations systems, and remote electric and magnetic field measurements to study the incidence and behavior of cloud-to-ground lightning in Canada, Europe, Japan, South America, and the United States. Specific recent applications include (1) exploring the differences in lightning behavior over land and ocean; (2) studying the factors affecting the initiation of upward lightning from tall towers; and (3) studying the impact of terrain variations on the strike location and parameters of cloud-to-ground lightning. Current work in this last area involves high-resolution (sub-kilometer) mapping of lightning parameters onto a digital elevation model, and evaluating the effects of terrain gradient and meteorological forcing.


Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Arizona, and Department of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology