Researchers use climate model to better understand electricity in the air

Oct 03, 2013
Researchers use climate model to better understand electricity in the air
A lightning bolt strikes Boulder, Colo., as seen from the National Center for Atmospheric Research mesa west of town. Credit: John Jorgensen.

(Phys.org) —Electrical currents born from thunderstorms are able to flow through the atmosphere and around the globe, causing a detectable electrification of the air even in places with no thunderstorm activity.

But until recently, scientists have not had a good understanding of how conductivity varies throughout the atmosphere and how that may affect the path of the electrical currents. Now, a research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has developed a global electric circuit model by adding an additional layer to a climate model created by colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder.

The results, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, show that the atmosphere is generally less conductive over the equator and above Southeast Asia and more conductive closer to the poles, though the atmosphere's conductivity changes seasonally and with the weather.

Research into atmospheric electrification stretches back to the 1750s, when researchers, including Benjamin Franklin, were trying to better understand the nature of lightning. In the 1800s, scientists measured changes in the atmosphere's electric field from the Kew Observatory near London, and in the 1900s, the Carnegie, an all-wooden ship built without any magnetic materials, crisscrossed the ocean while taking atmospheric electricity measurements that are still referenced today.

But obtaining a global picture of atmospheric conductivity has been difficult, in part because the atmosphere's ability to channel electricity is not static. Ions, which allow current to move through the air, are added to the by a continuous bombardment of galactic and to the lower atmosphere through radioactive decay. But those ions can be removed from the atmosphere in a variety of ways.

"They can recombine, to some degree, but they also attach themselves to aerosols and ," said Andreas Baumgaertner, a research associate in CU-Boulder's sciences department and lead author of the study. "Once they are attached to a heavy particle, like a water droplet, then you've lost the ability for it to conduct a current."

The amount of water droplets in the atmosphere varies as moisture-laden clouds move through an area, and the quantity of aerosols varies depending on their source. Aerosols are pumped into the atmosphere from tailpipes and smokestacks as well as from erupting volcanoes.

Baumgaertner and his colleagues—including CU-Boulder Professor Jeffrey Thayer, director of the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research; Ryan Neely, an atmospheric scientist at NCAR; and Greg Lucas, a CU-Boulder doctoral student in aerospace engineering sciences—came up with the idea of using NCAR's existing Community Earth System Model to get a global picture of conductivity because the model already took into account both water vapor and aerosols.

The team added in equations that represent how many ions are produced by cosmic rays from space and by through radon emissions from the Earth's surface. They also added equations for how those ions react in the atmosphere. The resulting 2,000 lines of code allowed them to create the first global picture of conductivity and how it evolves with time.

What they found was that, during a year, the atmosphere was on average less able to conduct electricity above areas of the globe that also have high emissions of aerosols, especially in Southeast Asia. In general, the atmosphere above the equator also was less conductive, mainly due to fewer than at the poles. The researchers also found that the of the as a whole varied with the seasons and was generally less conductive in June and July than in December and January.

The research team is now working to feed data on frequency and location of storms into the model so they can better understand how the current provided by lightning actually moves.

"The next step is to incorporate the distribution of ," Lucas said. "Currents generally travel upwards above thunderstorms distributed around the equator and return down over the poles, away from the thunderstorms. Part of the future work is going to be determining what influence those thunderstorms have on the global system."

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vacuum-mechanics
1.3 / 5 (12) Oct 03, 2013
Research into atmospheric electrification stretches back to the 1750s, when researchers, including Benjamin Franklin, were trying to better understand the nature of lightning. In the 1800s, scientists measured changes in the atmosphere's electric field from the Kew Observatory near London, and in the 1900s, the Carnegie, an all-wooden ship built without any magnetic materials, crisscrossed the ocean while taking atmospheric electricity measurements that are still referenced today.


By the way, unfortunately nowadays we still do not understand what the electric field is, how charge particle could create it. Maybe understand their mechanism here could help the research …
http://www.vacuum...21〈=en
cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (15) Oct 04, 2013
Electrical currents born from thunderstorms are able to flow through the atmosphere and around the globe, causing a detectable electrification of the air even in places with no thunderstorm activity.

The currents are not born from the storms, it is the currents which cause the storms, and all weather for that matter. Those currents are just the terrestrial manifestation of the currents that permeate the universe.
runrig
4 / 5 (4) Oct 05, 2013
The currents are not born from the storms, it is the currents which cause the storms, and all weather for that matter. Those currents are just the terrestrial manifestation of the currents that permeate the universe.


Perhaps - in the sense that extra electrons may be drawn into a Cb cloud from outside it's boundary, from above the Tropopause if anywhere ("Sprites" are a visible expression of this transfer of energy). However the fact remains that up/downdrafts within a Cb cloud collide ice particles, break them up and separate charges into different zones in the cloud to give potential difference. The cloud is caused by atmospheric processes and the electrical activity follows.
cantdrive85
1.4 / 5 (11) Oct 05, 2013
It's the other way around, the up/down drafts are currents as well. Sure particles bumping into each other may add to the overall charge, but the main catalyst is the particle flows induced by the charged earth orbiting in the suns electric domain. The atmosphere itself is an electric discharge phenomena, just as the magnetic field is.
runrig
5 / 5 (1) Oct 05, 2013
It's the other way around, the up/down drafts are currents as well. Sure particles bumping into each other may add to the overall charge, but the main catalyst is the particle flows induced by the charged earth orbiting in the suns electric domain. The atmosphere itself is an electric discharge phenomena, just as the magnetic field is.


The fact remains that Cb cloud forms because of meteorological circumstances. Convergence of winds: High surface temps/moisture with unstable air overlying; PVA advancement aloft (+ve vorticity advection). Dry air aloft: Mountain range uplift - to name some. Supercells are formed from a combination of these.

Air rises vigorously and hits the tropopause - into the stratosphere at 40000 to 70000ft.
There is quite enough energy there to do the necessary re splitting charge - however I am open to the idea of a boost given by cosmic rays at the top of such a high cloud.

http://en.wikiped...upercell
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (10) Oct 05, 2013
Yes, but that "vigorously" rising air is due to the particle flow of the EM field due to the charged sphere interacting in the Sun's electric domain. Sure there are additional factors involved, but the primary cause is due to the particle flow. This is why storms on the gas giants are so vigorous with so little "irradiance".
runrig
5 / 5 (2) Oct 05, 2013
Yes, but that "vigorously" rising air is due to the particle flow of the EM field due to the charged sphere interacting in the Sun's electric domain. Sure there are additional factors involved, but the primary cause is due to the particle flow. This is why storms on the gas giants are so vigorous with so little "irradiance".

No, it's due to basic thermodynamics. There is no em particle flow (before cloud formation, causing it's formation) - it is molecular flow due to atmospheric temperature differences, hence pressure differential, hence air mass movement.
Any electric induction it is due to the presence of that Cb cloud - it does not cause it, NWP models wouldn't work otherwise. The Solar magnetic field will induce an Em current in the Earth's system (cloud included) due it's motion through that field.
The gas giants possess their own internal source of heat - hence the distinct instability required to generate convective storms.

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (10) Oct 05, 2013
That's the theory, is it any wonder the models are inaccurate or meteorological forecasts are notoriously flawed.
barakn
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 05, 2013
That's the theory, is it any wonder the models are inaccurate or meteorological forecasts are notoriously flawed.

EU doesn't make any forecasts at all. That alone should be a hint that it's not a real theory.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (8) Oct 05, 2013
The EU is more a paradigm shifting cosmology than a simple theory.
https://www.youtu...77ERlDs8
meBigGuy
5 / 5 (1) Oct 06, 2013
cantthink85

The air currents are consistent with thermodynamic analysis and circulatory models. Now you can say all those are created by your model, including chocolate flavoring.

That's the theory, is it any wonder the models are inaccurate or meteorological forecasts are notoriously flawed.


LOL --- I'll buy that when I see accurate weather predictions based on your garbage.
Neinsense99
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2013
The EU is more a paradigm shifting cosmology than a simple theory.
https://www.youtu...77ERlDs8

"paradigm shift" Wasn't that on a list of much-overused buzz words at least a few years back?
Neinsense99
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2013
The EU is more a paradigm shifting cosmology than a simple theory.
https://www.youtu...77ERlDs8

"paradigm shift" Wasn't that on a list of much-overused buzz words at least a few years back?
Neinsense99
5 / 5 (1) Oct 10, 2013
cantthink85

The air currents are consistent with thermodynamic analysis and circulatory models. Now you can say all those are created by your model, including chocolate flavoring.

That's the theory, is it any wonder the models are inaccurate or meteorological forecasts are notoriously flawed.


LOL --- I'll buy that when I see accurate weather predictions based on your garbage.

Mmmm... plasma current chocolate flavoring....

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