Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists use high-energy particles from space to probe thunderstorms

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:

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Wandering greenhouse gas
16.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System
14.03.2018 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

A new kind of quantum bits in two dimensions

19.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

19.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>