Electric field sensors measure the local atmospheric field at the earth's surface and the fluctuations in the field strength. By monitoring the field strength, the potential for cloud to ground lightning discharges can be detected, and warning can be made when conditions are becoming favorable for lightning. Electric forces are in Newtons, electric potential energies are in Joules, and the charge is measured in Coulombs.
Electric fields and potentials are obtained by dividing the force and potential energy, respectively. The electric field is measured over a cubical surface, and the pattern of field detected is shown. Electrical fields exist whenever a positive or negative electrical charge is present.