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H_TeXMeX_H 04-09-2013 09:23 AM

"Dark" lightning produces massive amounts of ionizing radiation


Unknown to Franklin but now clear to a growing roster of lightning researchers and astronomers is that along with bright thunderbolts, thunderstorms unleash sprays of X-rays and even intense bursts of gamma rays, a form of radiation normally associated with such cosmic spectacles as collapsing stars. The radiation in these invisible blasts can carry a million times as much energy as the radiation in visible lightning, but that energy dissipates quickly in all directions rather than remaining in a stiletto-like lightning bolt.

Dark lightning appears sometimes to compete with normal lightning as a way for thunderstorms to vent the electrical energy that gets pent up inside their roiling interiors, Dwyer says. Unlike with regular lightning, though, people struck by dark lightning, most likely while flying in an airplane, would not get hurt. But according to Dwyer’s calculations, they might receive in an instant the maximum safe lifetime dose of ionizing radiation — the kind that wreaks the most havoc on the human body.

This is kinda scary. I'm not sure whether to believe it, but they seem to have measured it, so it just might be true :(

I don't fly anymore, but if I ever have to, this does concern me.

amani 04-09-2013 09:51 AM

Apparently, one needs to fly through thunderstorms first.

H_TeXMeX_H 04-09-2013 10:13 AM

It's true, pilots try to avoid them for many reasons ... add this one to the list.

weirdwolf 04-18-2013 12:25 AM

Interesting post H_TeXMeX_H. Haven't flown commercially (neither wanted to or need to) in some years. If I had the money would like to get a private license though.
Depends on the individual if "comparable to a full-body CT scan" is a lot or not I'd say, but wouldn't want it to happen more than once a year to me.

some links

k3lt01 04-18-2013 01:35 AM

Oh well you'll all need to start booking your cabins in cruise liners early now wont you.

kooru 04-18-2013 03:28 AM

Thanks for the post
I didn't know about this. Rather disquieting..

mjolnir 04-19-2013 10:30 AM

The Weather Service has pilots and researchers who routinely and repeatedly fly into thunderstorms. It will be interesting to see if "clusters" of certain types of tumors show up in later years.

PTrenholme 04-19-2013 10:51 AM

Really? So the thunderstorms indulge in cold fusion, eh? :scratch: If it's that easy, why can't the physicists reproduce it in their labs?

H_TeXMeX_H 04-19-2013 11:20 AM


Originally Posted by PTrenholme (Post 4934778)
Really? So the thunderstorms indulge in cold fusion, eh? :scratch: If it's that easy, why can't the physicists reproduce it in their labs?

The current theory mentioned in the original article is:


How is it that some storms produce these unusually strong rays? Dwyer speculates that super-fast electrons — perhaps revved up after being struck by cosmic rays that hit Earth’s atmosphere from deep space — may be the key. The theory is that these energetic electrons collide with atoms inside thunderclouds to create X-rays and gamma rays. These collisions lead to chain reactions that could be the mysterious basis for dark lightning.

Astronomers with access to gamma-ray detectors on satellites will be pivotal to discovering what causes dark lightning.

According to gamma-ray researcher J. Eric Grove of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, the gamma-ray flashes that Dwyer’s model describes match closely the best recent satellite measurements of thunderstorm emissions of these high-energy rays. But he also notes that recent data from an Italian satellite implies that thunderstorms might be producing gamma-ray flashes far more energetic than Dwyer’s theory can account for, adding mystery even as it helps confirm dark lightning’s existence.
So the energy probably derives from cosmic rays, is carried down through the atmosphere by high energy electrons, and converted to gamma and X-rays in thunder clouds.

PTrenholme 04-20-2013 11:52 AM

I say again my above.

From Dwyer's article in Physics (emphasis added):

Up until now, detailed measurements of the energy spectrum have been limited. For example, CGRO/BATSE had only four energy channels in its detector that extended up to a few hundred keV. The RHESSI spacecraft measured many important properties of TGFs but could only measure energies up to 20MeV [6]. More recently, FERMI/GBM has found some gamma rays reach 40MeV [10]. The Mini-Calorimeter detector (MCAL) onboard the AGILE satellite measures gamma rays from all directions in the 350keV–100MeV range, making it very well suited for measuring TGFs. The new AGILE/MCAL data reported by Tavani et al., remarkably, show that the energy spectrum of electrons in TGFs extends up to 100MeV. Right off the bat, this shows that very large potential differences must be present inside the storms. Surprisingly, no one knows what potential differences thunderstorms are capable of producing. The difficulty is that the required multipoint electric field observations are extremely challenging to make. When taking into account the energy losses of the electrons in air, the observation that the spectrum extends to 100MeV means that thunderstorms may be achieving several hundred million volts of potential difference with a moderately strong electric field—an unexpected electrical property of these storms. Even more interesting, the TGF spectrum reported by Tavani et al. deviates significantly from an exponential at the highest energies, becoming a power law. This observation will be very challenging to explain using the standard relativistic runaway electron avalanche model, and it is possible that some other mechanisms are also involved in the production of TGFs. However, this will leave theoreticians scratching their heads, since it is not obvious what other mechanisms are even capable of accelerating particles to such high energies inside thunderstorms.
So, "cold fusion" anyone? Or, at least, maybe, a clue for the MHD people to follow.

weirdwolf 04-22-2013 01:43 AM


Originally Posted by PTrenholme (Post 4934778)
Really? So the thunderstorms indulge in cold fusion, eh? :scratch: If it's that easy, why can't the physicists reproduce it in their labs?

Really ? In what possible way ? "Cold Fusion" by it's name entails that it occurs at low temps (room temps)hence the term "cold" fusion instead of the normally occurring "hot" fusion which happens at 100 million °C and up. Cold Fusion appears to be a pipe dream as noboby yet has produced a sustainable model that doesn't use more energy than it puts out.

I can see where terrestrial gamma-ray flashes could be involved with dark lightning as they seem to produce similar effects.
This phenomenon may be of some relation to Dark Lightning as well.

H_TeXMeX_H 04-22-2013 05:02 AM

To me the entire concept of fusion for energy production is flawed. They have yet to demonstrate that. Sure, the sun can do it, but unless you replicate a sun, you cannot do it, and if you can replicate a sun, you won't be producing energy but consuming it.

Sure, it would be nice if it worked, but I doubt it.

PTrenholme 04-22-2013 02:51 PM

You guys don't recognize gentle sarcasm. I was not trying to "explain" the report as "cold fusion," just trying to point out (as Dr. Dwyer did in his article quoted above) that the reported observations needed more explanation, and that, when explained, there may be some interesting possibilities.

floppywhopper 04-23-2013 05:18 AM

yous guys might be interested in these

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