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Electric Weather    
     
Lightning    
     

You could be forgiven for thinking that lightning was a well understood phenomenon as most meteorological texts seem to suggest that this is the case. The situation, however, is not so simple.

In a recent report in The Geophysical Review, 17 November 2003, Joseph Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology states that according to conventional theory, electrical fields in the atmosphere simply cannot grow large enough to produce lightning. 'The conventional view of how lightning is produced is wrong', and so 'The true origin of lightning remains a mystery'.

Dwyer suspects that the same process that limits fields could actually concentrate charge in some areas just long enough to trigger lightning, but this potential trigger mechanism still does not explain how sufficient charge is built-up.

 

Lightning

     
Upper atmospheric lightning    
     
The discovery of upper atmospheric lightning came as no small surprise to many, as is reflected in the nomenclature of the new phenomena. Pilots had been reporting it for years, but science, it seems, was slower to catch-on.    
     
Sprites usually occur in clusters of two or more simultaneous vertical discharges, typically extending from 40 to 50 miles above the earth, with or without less intense filaments reaching above and below. They were first photographed in 1989 by scientists from the University of Minnesota.

Blue jets differ from sprites in that they project from the top of cumulonimbus above a thunderstorm, typically in a narrow cone, to the lowest levels of the ionosphere 25 to 30 miles above the earth. They are also brighter than sprites, and were first recorded on a video taken from the space shuttle as it passed over Australia in 1989.

Elves often appear as a dim, flattened and expanding glow around 250 miles in diameter that lasts for, typically, just one millisecond. They occur in the ionosphere 60 miles above the ground. Their colour is believed to be of a red hue, and they were first recorded by another shuttle mission in 1990.

These new phenomena clearly indicate that there is much more to lightning than was supposed.

  Sprite
     
The Earth as a capacitor    
     

Meteorologists acknowledge that the Earth's atmosphere acts like a leaky, self-repairing capacitor, but they assume that this spherical capacitor is charged from within by thunderstorm activity. This is because they have been told that our little planet is an uncharged body flying through an electrically neutral solar system, but it has never been shown precisely how the thunderstorm charging process works, and this model fails to explain the new upper-atmospheric phenomena listed above, which stretch into space.

The Electric Universe, of course, argues that the solar system is not electrically sterile. Earth is a charged body that continually transfers charge to maintain electrical equilibrium with the solar environment.

There are approximately 2,000 thunderstorms at any given moment worldwide.

 

"The phenomena of electrical discharge are exceedingly important, and when they are better understood they will probably throw great light on the nature of electricity as well as on the nature of gases and of the medium pervading space." James Clerk Maxwell, Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.

     
Atmospheric electricity    
     

While the energetic activity in the Ionosphere was described as one of the first big surprises of the space age, we generally assume the lower atmosphere (Below about 100 km) to be electrically neutral, with the exception of lightning strikes.

However, the mobility of small ions corresponds with a downward electric field of 100 V/m on average near the ground. This fair-weather atmospheric electric field doesn't cause a shock to a standing human because in practice they are grounded, and poorly conducting air cannot charge-up a grounded object.

  "Fiction has to be plausible. Reality is under no such constraint." Anon
     
Martian Dust Devils    
     

For electrical theorists, giant electrical vortices on Mars are expected because there are insufficient water clouds to provide an intermediate electrical path from the ionosphere to the surface through normal lightning. The discharges that drive the dust devils on Mars have more in common with the Sprites and Jets phenomena recently discovered, above.

Wallace Thornhill and others proposed at least a decade ago that dust devils, tornadoes, and waterspouts are essentially electric discharge phenomena.

A NASA news release, July 14, 2005, has given official sanction to this idea, based on new research. This involved chasing dust devils in the Arizona desert where investigators were surprised to find that the vortices were electrically charged.

Dust Devils on Mars Electrified, Study Suggests

Also, see our section on EDM - Electrical Discharge Machining for an explanation of enigmatic planetary scars

  Martian Dust Devil. Aerial view top.
     
Megalightning on Venus    
     
In a report on Venusian lightning, Professor Donald Hunten of the department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona, Tucson, summed up: "The indications are that lightning is likely to occur in any substantial planetary atmosphere. Theories of electrification are faced with the need to explain its presence under a wide variety of circumstances and atmospheric conditions." There are no water clouds on Venus.    
     
Desert Storm    
     

Electric Rain? Can negative ion generators create rain in arid regions? It would seem so.

After scientists installed a network of interconnected conductors in the desert that release clouds of negatively charged ions, approximately 50 rainstorms fell in the driest months of the year. Weather forecasters predicted no rain at all during this time.

Ions attract water in the atmosphere instead of through the commonly described process of neutral dust motes building up raindrops through a process of condensation. The dust hanging in the air becomes charged, making it more attractive to water vapor.

Electric Universe physicist Wal Thornhill wrote:

"If conventional theory fails to explain electrical storms it cannot be used to discount the results of ionization experiments. Instead, conventional theory suffers doubts about its basic plausibility. Weather experts have a limited view of the electrical nature of the Earth and its environment. The 'enormous power input' is freely available from the galaxy. That galactic electrical power drives the weather systems on all of the planets and even the Sun. So the ionization experiment is rather like the control gate in a transistor, where a small current into the control gate influences the entire power output of the transistor. This method of weather control should eventually force the critics to think again."

Arabian Pree Release

  desert rainbow
     
Was the Space Shuttle, Columbia, downed by megalightning?    
     

The picture right seems to show the space shuttle Columbia being struck by the tell-tale corkscrew of a lightning bolt. This was hotly denied by NASA, and the photographs were confiscated from a San Francisco newspaper. The controversy was also screened in a UK television documentary.

The bolt is estimated to have struck at about 70km above the earth, too high for lightning to occur according to conventional wisdom. The official line has it that a number of protective tiles broke free leading to part of the shuttle overheating before breaking-up.

Further: Electric weather / Columbia disaster / lightning

  Columbia disaster