Scientists Use High-energy Particles from Space to Probe Thunderstorms

Jun 01, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 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 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.

Source: Florida Institute of Technology (news : web)

Explore further: Aging Africa

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Lightning research sparks new discovery

Nov 01, 2005

Lightning, a high-voltage discharge that strikes quickly and sometimes fatally, is very difficult to study. A new and surprising finding by Florida Institute of Technology's Dr. Joseph Dwyer and his team brings the study ...

Scientists close in on source of X-rays in lightning

Jul 15, 2008

University of Florida and Florida Institute of Technology engineering researchers have narrowed the search for the source of X-rays emitted by lightning, a feat that could one day help predict where lightning will strike.

Scientists Seek Sprite Light Source

Jun 07, 2005

by Mike Bettwy Giant red blobs, picket fences, upward branching carrots, and tentacled octopi --- these are just a few of the phrases used to describe sprites --- spectacular, eerie flashes of colored lig ...

Uncovering the mechanisms of lightning varieties

Mar 26, 2008

The mechanism behind different types of lightning may now be understood, thanks to a combination of direct observation and computer modeling reported by a team of researchers from New Mexico Tech and Penn State.

Recommended for you

Aging Africa

16 hours ago

In the September issue of GSA Today, Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont–Burlington and colleagues present a cosmogenic view of erosion, relief generation, and the age of faulting in southernmost Africa ...

NASA animation shows Hurricane Marie winding down

16 hours ago

NOAA's GOES-West satellite keeps a continuous eye on the Eastern Pacific and has been covering Hurricane Marie since birth. NASA's GOES Project uses NOAA data and creates animations and did so to show the end of Hurricane ...

EU project sails off to study Arctic sea ice

22 hours ago

A one-of-a-kind scientific expedition is currently heading to the Arctic, aboard the South Korean icebreaker Araon. This joint initiative of the US and Korea will measure atmospheric, sea ice and ocean properties with technology ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

JukriS
1 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2009
When you see lightning, then you see how energy expanding/exploding normal faster! Have you ever see how space expansding? Are you sire, space expanding at all?

Onesimpleprinciple long time ago

"Lightning*
The Lightnings

Lightnings exist in a certain weather, when there is a certain kind of pressure variation in atmosphere. At first the energy rapidly explodes from down to up towards a less dense area and this dense energypulse cleans the energy opening from the atomcores with the energypulse up towards a less dense area.

The energybundles of this energic pulse open energy itself forwards. Now one energybundle in this energyfront hits to some atonscore higher up, before the actual energypulse reaches there. It makes really a lot of energy to explode from there. This energy is now directed also to an area that has the least dense energy and locates now down, from where the front of the energypulse (the pilotwave) has cleaned energy upwards with it.This is why the actual lightning strikes straight towards the energypulse that has opened up from downwards.

Look also %u201Dthe Tsunami 2004%u201D subject in Geology section.

Many blue jets exist in upper atmosphere and they release really a lot of energy upwards like fans. Is this a mystery to a modern technology?

Let us think, that towards the globe there comes energywaves from space and the energic energybundles of these energywaves meet energybundles that open up from the globe. The energybundles coming from the globe clean with them away from the globe the energywaves that come from energybundles coming towards the globe. Now the energybundles coming towards the globe don´t push themselves separate from each other at the same relation
as they expand. This is how they reach out each other without actually moving towards each other.

The energybundles coming towards the globe unite themselves to more energic energybundles. At the same time they themselves clean with them the energywaves opening up from the upper atmospheres atomcores. At some point one energybundle in that energypulse hits to some three-dimentionally expanding centre of energyconcentration that locates in atomcore of atmosphere.

This makes a lot of energy to explode from that towards a less dence area up above from where the energypulse itself has just cleaned energy with it towards the globe. During the movement of energypulse coming towards the globe, those atomcores from which the energypulse cleaned energy with the pulse, have had time to push themselves away from the centre of the globe so that now the strongly exploding energy can spread powerfully upwards as a fan."
JukriS
1 / 5 (1) Jun 03, 2009
Are you sure, space expanding?

What about if nucleus of atoms exploding/expanding all a time and emit/radiate energywaves who have a nature of exploding/expanding electrons and particle. All a time exploding nucleus of atoms pushing themselfs same way what tehy expanding, with energywaves what they emit/radiate all a time?

http://onesimplep....com/236

Tornados*
There are lots of researches about tornados, but this phenomen is still not quite understood.

Often lightnings belong to the birth of tornado. Let us think how the energy of a lightning cleans up the energy opening up from the atomcores of atmosphere with it and the atomcores of that area don´t push themselves away. The atoms outside this area continue pushing themselves away from each other and this is how the atomcores in target area of a lightning push themselves close to each other. This is how a gas statue developes. After that the atom cores start to push themselves forcefully away from each other. The atoms of the statue don´t have the power to push each other towards a less dence area, that is to say upwards so that the statue could stay straight. It twistes itself to a tornado, and its atoms / molecules capture with them the molecules of the atmosphere alongside. This is how masses of air begin to flow towards the tornado on account of variation of pressure.