Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists use high-energy particles from space to probe thunderstorms

03.06.2009
Trying to find how thurnderstorms create lightning

Florida Institute of Technology researchers are trying to solve one of the great mysteries in nature: how thunderstorms make lightning. Because, in principle, lightning is a big spark it should behave like other sparks—like the ones created when we touch a door knob on a dry day. Scientists have accumulated evidence, however, that lightning sometimes behaves in very un-spark-like ways.

Lightning can start in regions of thunderstorms that have relatively low electric fields and, so, should create no sparks. Because lightning obviously is made by thunderstorms, scientists are left wondering what they are missing.

Three such scientists, Joseph Dwyer and Hamid Rassoul from Florida Tech and Martin Uman from the University of Florida, recently published a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research titled, "Remote measurement of thunderstorm electrostatic fields." It describes their new technique to remotely measure thunderstorm electric fields on the ground.

By measuring small radio pulses made by cosmic-rays passing through these storms, they calculate that they can reconstruct the electric fields along the high-energy particle's paths. This could allow them to measure any lightning initiation pockets that might exist.

One idea is that thunderstorms generate big electric fields capable of making sparks, but those strong fields are localized in very small pockets—too small to be easily detected by the balloons and aircraft sent into thunderclouds to measure the fields. Although this seems reasonable, the problem has been how to test it. Indeed, for decades scientists have struggled in vain to find such pockets where lightning might be initiated.

"Cosmic-rays are high-energy particles from outer space that constantly rain down on our planet. They form a natural probe for measuring thunderstorms," explained Dwyer, professor of physics and space sciences, who is leading the research effort. "Thunderstorms are big, violent, and dangerous places. Cosmic-ray air showers allow us to study them from a relatively safe location on the ground."

"It's a daunting task to find these high field regions," explained Rassoul, professor of physics and space sciences. "Thunderstorms are large and the chance that a balloon would find its way into exactly the right place at the right time to catch lightning initiation is small."

This summer at the UF/Florida Tech International Center for Lightning Research and Testing at Camp Blanding, Fla., scientists are conducting experiments to search for these lightning initiation pockets. If successful, researchers will be closer to understanding lightning, a phenomenon that has mystified people for thousands of years.

Karen Rhine | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fit.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>