My Theory On Bouyancy Of Electron/Ion Clouds In Thunderstorms

Discussion in 'General Science' started by Glenn Holland, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. Glenn Holland

    Thread Starter Member

    Dec 26, 2014
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    I've studied meteorology (about weather phenomenon not debris falling from space) and I have a theory about the role of charged (electrons or ions) clouds as a catalyst in producing thunderstorms.

    If a charged cloud has a very large group of electrons, it would seem the repulsion between the charges would decrease the density and also increase buoyancy. Consequently, a charged air mass in an overall neutral air mass would be more subject to convection and that could act as a catalyst in producing cumulonimbus (highly convective) thunderstorms.

    Obviously, aerodynamic forces would dominate the electrostatic forces, however I still wonder if the buoyancy of charged regions could have a significant effect on convection and formation of rain or hail. For example, if a lightning discharge occurs, the buoyancy of the charged air mass would suddenly decrease and cause it to fall and eventually produce rain.

    This is a purely anecdotal observation, but I've experienced many initially dry thunderstorms where a severe lightning discharge would be immediately followed by the start of rainfall. Perhaps the coincidence between the lightning and the start of rain is simply due to the storm reaching the mature stage which results in the rapid condensation of the humid air mass into rain drops. However, I'm curious if the lightning discharges the air mass and the decrease in density (and loss of buoyancy) promotes the condensation and the formation of rain.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2016
  2. BR-549

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2013
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    Have you ever made a super saturated salt solution using heat, where there are no seed crystals left in solution?

    Let it quietly cool. Then tap solution with a spoon.

    Watch as magical white crystals form all thru-out the solution and fall to the bottom.

    Our atmospheric solution can become supersaturated with moisture.

    Lightening just taps the solution.
     
  3. #12

    Expert

    Nov 30, 2010
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    I think this is a good question. "Does the presence of a charge change the density of a gas in an unconfined space?"
    I don't know the answer, but I would like to.
     
  4. Glenn Holland

    Thread Starter Member

    Dec 26, 2014
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    I've seen lightning during many night time thunderstorms and the discharge starts near the base (or one side) of the cloud, then propagates throughout the entire cloud in many small branches and filaments.

    These branching discharges are called "dendrites" or "crawlers" and eventually the entire cloud is lit up like a bright dandelion. From this pattern, it appears the charges are initially dispersed throughout the entire cloud and drain toward the starting point of the discharge.

    This dispersion can be explained by the mutual repulsion between like charges which would cause them to spread out in all directions and that would tend to increase the volume of the charged air mass. I would call this effect as "Electro Thermodynamics".
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2016
  5. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    Well, picture the textbook volume of an ideal gas in a cylinder with a moving piston (frictionless, of course). Now add a charge to every molecule of gas. Obviously (I think) the pressure would increase, move the piston, and density n/V would go down. That's Glenn's reasoning that charged air should be buoyant.

    I started writing this to offer my hypothesis that No, charge doesn't change density, but now I'm less sure. But here is what I was thinking. Imagine a theoretical volume of air that has, for whatever reason, taken on a higher charge imbalance than neighboring air. Those charges repel. I have no idea of the rate at which they can move away from each other. But one thing I'm sure of is that any pressure imbalance potentially caused by their outward movement is filled at the speed of sound by air molecules coming in to fill in as they leave. I'm picturing a very small fraction of charged molecules moving slowly relative to the uncharged air molecules in huge preponderance moving about at the speed of sound.

    So yeah, it's be nice to hear from somebody that knows meteorology.

    I do agree with BR-549 that audio shock causes a sudden increase in rain.
     
  6. boatsman

    Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2008
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    @wayneh

    I do agree with BR-549 that audio shock causes a sudden increase in rain. I was watching a film series of the Great War (WW1) and couldn't help thinking that the torrential rain the soldiers in the trenches were experiencing could have been caused by the tremendous artillery barrages from both sides.
     
  7. BR-549

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2013
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    When salt dissolves in water(a fluid), it forms ions(charged particles), but the density increases.

    I would think that if charge is added to an air mass, the density would increase. More mass per volume. I think the temp would go up.

    If the ions were induced from within the air mass, from an external source(no charge or mass added), I don't think there would be a change in density(because no mass change), but there might be a temp change, causing a density change.

    I would think that the charge in the updraft and the charge in the surrounding winds, have some kind of confining effect to allow the potential to build up. Til it snaps.
     
  8. BR-549

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2013
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  9. Glenn Holland

    Thread Starter Member

    Dec 26, 2014
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    Depending on the cause and location, the processes that form thunderstorms can be very turbulent or very tranquil. The Florida Everglades has the most thunderstorms per year and they are triggered by the gradual convection over a large, warm swampy area (rather than from cold fronts like in the Plains States). Consequently, those storms would have the least outside influence from jet streams and local winds.

    The National Lightning Observatory is located somewhere near Tampa and it would be a good place to do experiments to test theories about what does -and doesn't- happen in thunderstorms.
     
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