Relativistic Electron Beams Above Thunderclouds

Project: Research council

Project Details


It has recently been discovered that lightning generates upward-directed relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds. This extends the phenomenon of relativistic runaway breakdown inside thunderclouds to the atmosphere above thunderclouds. This marks a profound advance in our understanding of the atmosphere because we now know it acts as a giant, natural, particle accelerator. The accelerated electrons can reach significant relativistic energies of some tens of MeV during their passage from the troposphere, through the middle atmosphere, into near-Earth space. These relativistic electron beams constitute a current above thunderclouds and effectively transfer energy from the troposphere to the middle atmosphere. This coupling process thereby forms a novel element of the global atmospheric electric circuit which links tropospheric thunderclouds to the atmosphere above.
Effective start/end date10/01/119/01/14


  • NERC

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  • Research Output

    Dancing sprites: detailed analysis of two case studies

    Soula, S., Mlynarczyk, J., Füllekrug, M., Pineda, N., Georgis, J. F., van der Velde, O., Montanyà, J. & Fabró, F., 16 Mar 2017, In : Journal of Geophysical Research : Atmospheres. 122, 6, p. 3173–3192

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 5 Citations (Scopus)
    130 Downloads (Pure)

    Introduction to lightning detection

    Fullekrug, M., 3 Feb 2017, In : Weather. 72, 2, p. 32-35

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    23 Downloads (Pure)

    Mapping lightning in the sky with a mini array

    Füllekrug, M., Liu, Z., Koh, K., Mezentsev, A., Pedeboy, S., Soula, S., Enno, S. E., Sugier, J. & Rycroft, M. J., 16 Oct 2016, In : Geophysical Research Letters. 43, 19, p. 10,448-10,454

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Open Access
  • 7 Citations (Scopus)
    109 Downloads (Pure)