A Review of Thunderstorm Electrification Processes

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  • 1 Physics Department, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, Manchester, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Recent developments in the area of thunderstorm electrification processes are reviewed. These processes have two main divisions; (a) convective, in which particles charged by ion capture are moved by convection currents to strengthen the electric field in the cloud, and (b) processes involving charge transfer during particle interactions, following which oppositely charged particles move apart in the updraft to form the observed charge centers. Type-b processes are further subdivided into inductive (relying on the preexistence of an electric field) and noninductive charge-transfer mechanisms. Field and laboratory evidence points to the importance of interactions between particles of the ice phase, in the presence of liquid water droplets, in separating electric charge in thunderstorms. Recent experimental studies have investigated the dependence of charge transfer on the size and relative velocity of the interacting particles and have determined the dependence of the sign of the charge transfer on temperature and cloud liquid water content. Field data upon which the laboratory simulations are based are obtained by increasingly sophisticated airborne and ground-based means. Calculations of electric field growth using experimental charge-transfer data in numerical models of the dynamical and microphysical development of thunderstorms show agreement with observations, although further refinement is required. Some directions for future research are outlined.

Abstract

Recent developments in the area of thunderstorm electrification processes are reviewed. These processes have two main divisions; (a) convective, in which particles charged by ion capture are moved by convection currents to strengthen the electric field in the cloud, and (b) processes involving charge transfer during particle interactions, following which oppositely charged particles move apart in the updraft to form the observed charge centers. Type-b processes are further subdivided into inductive (relying on the preexistence of an electric field) and noninductive charge-transfer mechanisms. Field and laboratory evidence points to the importance of interactions between particles of the ice phase, in the presence of liquid water droplets, in separating electric charge in thunderstorms. Recent experimental studies have investigated the dependence of charge transfer on the size and relative velocity of the interacting particles and have determined the dependence of the sign of the charge transfer on temperature and cloud liquid water content. Field data upon which the laboratory simulations are based are obtained by increasingly sophisticated airborne and ground-based means. Calculations of electric field growth using experimental charge-transfer data in numerical models of the dynamical and microphysical development of thunderstorms show agreement with observations, although further refinement is required. Some directions for future research are outlined.

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