Relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds

M. Füellekrug, R. Roussel-Dupre, E. M. D. Symbalisty, J. J. Colman, Olivier Arnaud Chanrion, S. Soula, O. van der Velde, A. Odzimek, A. J. Bennett, V. P. Pasko, Torsten Neubert

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Non-luminous relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds have been detected by the radio signals of low frequency similar to 40-400 kHz which they radiate. The electron beams occur similar to 2-9 ms after positive cloud-to-ground lightning discharges at heights between similar to 22-72 km above thunderclouds. Intense positive lightning discharges can also cause sprites which occur either above or prior to the electron beam. One electron beam was detected without any luminous sprite which suggests that electron beams may also occur independently of sprites. Numerical simulations show that beams of electrons partially discharge the lightning electric field above thunderclouds and thereby gain a mean energy of similar to 7MeV to transport a total charge of similar to-10mC upwards. The impulsive current similar to 3 x 10(-3) Am-2 associated with relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds is directed downwards and needs to be considered as a novel element of the global atmospheric electric circuit.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number15
Pages (from-to)7747-7754
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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