Thursday, January 29, 2009

Electric Clouds

Stephen Smith: Electric Clouds.

Cloud formations often exhibit structure that could be the result of something other than blowing winds. Does ionized plasma actually shape the clouds?

"Thunderstorms are not electricity generators, they are passive elements in an interplanetary circuit, like a self-repairing leaky condenser. The energy stored in the cloud ‘condenser’ is released as lightning when it short-circuits. The short-circuits can occur either within the cloud or across the external resistive paths to Earth or the ionosphere. The charge across the cloud ‘condenser’ gives rise to violent vertical electrical winds within the cloud, not vice versa." --- Wal Thornhill, 2004


The Earth is an electrically charged body within the stream of ions permeating space and holds an electric field at its surface of 50 – 200 volts per meter. The electricity from space is carried by the barrage of ionic particles emitted by the sun as the “solar wind” and speeds along massive Birkeland currents through the circuit. Because water molecules are electric dipoles and are attracted to an opposite polar charge, such as that on another water molecule, they will clump together and align themselves within the Earth’s “fair weather field”. No “seeds” are necessary for water vapor to form clouds.

The electromagnetic field beneath a thunderstorm increases (up to 10,000 volts per meter) because it acts like a capacitor, storing energy from the surrounding environment. Observations have shown that a "wind" of charged particles blows toward the developing storm, which could be interpreted as a current flowing into the base of the clouds. The surrounding air is pulled along with the current flow and creates the powerful updrafts that sometimes rise into the stratosphere.

It might be the flood of ions into and out of clouds that is forming the “twilight zone” of unidentified particles that so mystifies the scientific community.


Quantum_Flux said...

Nicely put :)

Anaconda said...


@ Quantum_Flux:

I seem to remember one of our early discussions regarding electrodynamics was over sticky tape and the micro amounts of x-rays that were released. If my memory serves me, I suggested this process was influenced by the Earth's electric current/magnetic field.

You were decidedly against that idea and attributed it to "static" electricity and that it was an "isolated" process.

Such is my memory -- if you can find the comments or have a different recollection let me know.

Anyway, why is this worth mentioning at this point, well after the discussion is over?

First, it was one of our early discussions regarding Plasma Cosmology -- admittedly on a small scale, we were talking "tape" you know.

But, second, at Picture of the Day, there is a discussion that focusses on the relationship between lightning, sticky tape, and "black holes".

Wow, who would have thunk it...

Here is the first part of the article: Lightning, Sticky Tape, and Black Hole Observations - Part 1, Jan 30, 2009( -- "There is an endless supply of astronomical and astrophysical reports with “surprising” findings. However, the observations fit within the Electric Universe paradigm."

Big statement I know, but so-far, Plasma Cosmology has backed up its assertions with observations and measurements where the gravitational model hasn't (in my opnion).

This first part sets the stage by reviewing observations and measurements for what is alleged to be a "black hole".

But...wait for it...the second part will draw the connections between the "events" guessed it...sticky tape!

Let's see what the conclusions are -- I have no idea -- and see if my prior ideas influenced by my early understanding of Plasma Cosmology are supported or your ideas based on electrostatic lines of reasoning pan out.

Also, I haven't discussed this area with you for a while, I'm wondering where your opinion is at now.

Quantum_Flux said...

Well, that is a good point there Anaconda, if that sticky tape experiment was grounded to the Earth then it would be the voltage potential gradient (between the sticky tape and the Earth) that was driving the high energy electrical arcs that were producing the x-rays.

As for Electric Cosmos Theory, I can't really say for sure. There is a lot of research being done on the nature of the Universe. Presently, a large proportion of the details are still not understood perfectly well, and I believe it will remain that way until more data is obtained.

Big Al said...

lightning is interesting. I don't think the idea of clouds being a passive element in the system is valid. What is the role of sprites and jets in the power system? Also my big question, what is the return path for all this current poring into the earth?

Anaconda said...

@ Big Al:

Your big question is reasonable.

Perhaps this discussion will help:

The Earth's plasma fountain

"Plasma Fountain is in the North Pole of the Earth. This figure depicts the oxygen, helium, and hydrogen ions that gush into space from regions near the Earth's poles. The faint yellow gas shown above the north pole represents gas lost from Earth into space; the green gas is the aurora borealis-or plasma energy pouring back into the atmosphere."


"The plasma fountain was discovered using data from the Retarding Ion Mass Spectrometer instrument on the Dynamics Explorer spacecraft, in the 1980s. Recently, the SCIFER sounding rocket was launched into the plasma heating region of the fountain."

Wikipedia entry for Plasma Fountain.

Big Al your other question is also reasonable: "What is the role of sprites and jets in the power system?"

It's my understanding that "sprites and jets" act as transmission intruments of plasma energy from space to the ground and also can transmit energy from the Earth to space.

The transmission of electrical energy is most definitely a two-way street between space and the Earth.

Anaconda said...

@ Quantum_Flux:

Here is part 2 of the POD article:

Lightning, Sticky Tape, and Black Hole Observations -
Part 2, February 2, 2009(
-- "Embarrassingly little is known about terrestrial lightning, although it strikes the Earth about 3 million times per day."

"In 2003 it was proven that lightning emits X-rays and gamma rays a short time before the visible flash. The first such study in Nature reported a very interesting time correlation between the X-ray transmission and the optical/UV transmission. To quote the original report:

“They measured intense bursts of X-rays, gamma rays and fast-moving electrons - just before each visible flash. The bursts typically lasted less than 100 microseconds. ‘I think it's really exciting,’ said co-researcher Martin Uman. ‘We didn't expect to see anything at all, and then, all of a sudden, with almost every lightning stroke, we had X-rays.’”

Like the astronomers, even lightning experts are sometimes surprised."

@ Quantum_Flux:

I'm not sure if the part on sticky tape sheds light on out previous discussion. But I think you summarize the present two part article well.

As for Plasma Cosmology, it sounds as if you are keeping an open-mind. Fair enough.

Anaconda said...

@ Big Al:

I have an additional link that adds to the plasma fountain concept:

Solar Wind Squeezes Some of Earth's Atmosphere into Space

"Using NASA's Polar spacecraft, researchers have found the first direct evidence that bursts of energy from the Sun can cause oxygen and other gases to gush from Earth's upper atmosphere. Space physicists have observed that the flow of "polar wind" increased substantially when a storm from the Sun smacked into Earth on September 24- 25, 1998. In effect, pressure from the solar ejection squeezed gas out of the ionosphere."

"Scientists have known since the early 1980s that Earth's upper atmosphere leaks oxygen, helium, and hydrogen ions (atoms that have gained or lost an electron) into space from regions near the poles. But it was not until the Polar spacecraft flew through this fountain of ionized gas in September 1998 that scientists confirmed that the flow of ions is caused by solar activity."