What is it about?

Global thunderstorms continuously generate electric currents which flow around the earth. If the thunderstorms were somehow turned off, our work shows that the time which would be taken for the electricity in the air to fade away completely is 15 to 30 minutes. We combine theory and observations to determine this timescale, allowing for weather patterns which lead to different structures of clouds. The timescale also provides a measure of how rapidly fluctuations in the electric currents from individual lightning storms and events are smoothed out.

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Why is it important?

The timescale of the global atmosperic electric circuit acts to smooth the effect of storms and lightning strikes into a steadier current. It has been suggested that the current might influence processes in other clouds - such as droplet growth - and the smoothing could make this more able to occur. Our work is the first to combine calculated theoretical values with directly observed timescales found by analysing the response to a large burst of volcanic lightning.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Determining the time constant of the global atmospheric electric circuit through modelling and observations, Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, May 2024, Elsevier,
DOI: 10.1016/j.jastp.2024.106267.
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