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W. L. Chameides
,
D. H. Stedman
,
R. R. Dickerson
,
D. W. Rusch
, and
R. J. Cicerone

Abstract

The rate of odd nitrogen (NO x ) production by electrical discharge through air was theoretically and experimentally estimated to be ∼6 × 1016 NO x molecules per joule. The theoretical treatment employed a cylindrical shock-wave solution to calculate the rate of NO x production in high temperature reactions. The limits obtained were experimentally verified by subjecting a regulated air flow to electrical discharges followed by a measurement of NO x production using chemiluminescence. These measurements also indicated that water vapor content has no detectable effect on the NO x production rate. Our results imply that lightning is a significant source of NO x , producing about 30–40 megatons NO x -N per year and possibly accounting for as much as 50% of the total atmospheric NO x source.

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C. A. Barth
,
R. W. Sanders
,
G. E. Thomas
,
G. J. Rottman
,
D. W. Rusch
,
R. J. Thomas
,
G. H. Mount
,
G. M. Lawrence
,
J. M. Zawodny
,
R. A. West
, and
J. London
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