Williams, Earle R. Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Center for Meteorology and Physical Oceanography, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
- Electrical structure of thunderclouds
- Mechanisms for charge separation
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Processes responsible for the separation of positive and negative electric charges in the atmosphere during storms, including the spectacular manifestation of this charge separation: lightning discharges. Cloud electrification is almost always associated with convective activity and with the formation of precipitation in the form of liquid water (rain) and ice particles (graupel and hail). The most vigorous convection and active lightning occurs in the summertime, when the energy source for convection, water vapor, is most prevalent. Winter snowstorms can also be strongly electrified, but they produce far less lightning than summer storms. Clouds that exhibit electrification and lightning have depths ranging from about 4 to 20 km (2.4 to 12 mi) and greater for the largest thunderstorms. Electrified storm clouds occasionally occur in complete isolation; more commonly they are found in convective clusters or in lines that may extend horizontally for hundreds of kilometers. See also: Lightning; Precipitation (meteorology)
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