When lightning happens. Does energy bleed off into space?


by munky99999
Tags: bleed, energy, lightning, space
munky99999
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Jan6-06, 09:06 PM
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When lightning happens. Does energy bleed off into space, or does the electrical energy get completely absorbed into the atmosphere?
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chroot
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Jan6-06, 09:44 PM
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Lightning is actually the balancing of a static charge difference that exists before the bolt occurs. This charge difference appears to be generated by the falling of droplets of moisture within a cloud. Each time these droplets grow and split into two, the charge is divided unevenly, and the process accelerates. I believe some of the specifics of the process are still somewhat unknown, however.

In the same way, shuffling across a deep-pile carpet creates a static charge difference that is balanced by an annoying spark when you touch a doorknob. No net energy is being released or absorbed by anything in the process, simply being moved around.

- Warren
tandoorichicken
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Jan7-06, 12:14 AM
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Isn't a lighting bolt a lot like the spark that jumps across the plates of a capacitor?

The way I see it, lightning is a discharge of a lot of pent up electrical energy. If you consider the clouds and the ground to form a giant capacitor of sorts with an air insulator, the potential difference or voltage (electrical analogue of pressure) between the "plates" can store a whole lot of energy. If a ceramic capacitor the size of a fingernail and plates milimeters apart can store up enough energy to light a light bulb, just think how much energy a capacitor many miles across and with plates thousands of feet apart can hold! Sometimes the insulator between the plates in a capacitor breaks down because the voltage is so high and a spark leaps across to the other plate. This release of pent-up energy usually destroys the capacitor.

In the case of lightning, most of the electrical energy is transmitted to the ground where it is dispersed. Other ways the energy can "bleed off" is through heat, and don't forget sound, which is why lightning is accompanied by thunder.

That ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would.

dand5
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Jan12-06, 01:36 PM
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When lightning happens. Does energy bleed off into space?


The air between the capacitor plates (cloud, ground; though usually cloud to cloud) is ionized moments before the visible strike. The energy is released as light (the part that is seen), and as a shockwave (thunder) and probably some of it to the ground. The energy from the shockwave gets dissipated by viscosity, the light by whatever it hits (possibly something in space, but probably not).
LURCH
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Jan12-06, 06:09 PM
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When lightning flashes, energy is lost into space. This phenominon has only recently been observed; the discharges are called "sprites".
smurfslappa
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Feb13-06, 11:48 AM
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[moderator edit: pointless profanity removed.] In the 3 recent powerful beasts of hurricanes, all the lightning recorded was cloud to cloud or cloud to ground, and was around the eye wall. Did the water somehow rub together just right and allow for all the air to ground lightning, or are hurricanes more than just warm water reactions?

In Australia, earlier last year, there was a massive electric storm that caused hundreds of thousands of lightning bolts. I'm sure those were air to ground, not massive rubbing.
RFS duty officer Brett Bowden said the RFS lightning data showed an extraordinary number of strikes on Sunday.

"When you look at the map it is something like hundreds of thousands; there was massive activity," he said.
All I'm saying is that I'm sure lightning isn't water droplets rubbing together. It's whatever caused that lightning storm but on a smaller scale. Maybe the clouds even carry charges from these capacitors on the surface of the land last dude was talking about. Electricity from the sun, whatever. It's not droplets rubbing together though.
chroot
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Feb13-06, 04:06 PM
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smurfslappa,

No one ever mentioned water droplets rubbing; you should work on your reading comprehension. While you're at it, you should also work on your use of unnecessary profanity, as it is not welcome here.

- Warren
smurfslappa
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Feb13-06, 05:05 PM
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Yeah yeah, alright, water droplets splitting uneven charge whatever. That sounded even more ridiculous than the rubbing, and I didn't think that's what you possibly could of meant.

In the same way, shuffling across a deep-pile carpet creates a static charge difference that is balanced by an annoying spark when you touch a doorknob.
That threw me off as well, since I've heard that analogy parroted by many a "scientist" and they meant exactly that.

But anyways, you also said:
No net energy is being released or absorbed by anything in the process, simply being moved around.
But I beg to differ, Chroot. I say energy is being absorbed, or released. I mean, after seeing these recent hurricanes you still don't think they're simply clusters of thunderstorms fed by warm water that start spinning, right? Energy is constantly being absorbed, released, and lightning is no different.

Come on, hundreds of thousands of lightning bolts, air to ground. Were the droplets splitting rather spectactularly that day? Same with these hurricanes; they defied all previous conceptions of what a hurricane was, and yet people are still clinging to the outmoded model.

And besides, I liked my bolts of lightning from the arse thing. It was a william wallace joke, and come on, we all loved that movie.
chroot
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Feb13-06, 05:47 PM
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Quote Quote by smurfslappa
Yeah yeah, alright, water droplets splitting uneven charge whatever. That sounded even more ridiculous than the rubbing, and I didn't think that's what you possibly could of meant.
Do you have some critical reasoning to think the model is ridiculous? Do you have some better model which can be shown to more accurately model the phenomenon?

Whether you like it or not, such theories are the most widely-accepted among scientists. From Wikipedia:

Quote Quote by Wikipedia
The first process in the generation of lightning is the forcible separation of positive and negative charge carriers within a cloud or air. The mechanism by which this happens is still the subject of research, but one widely accepted theory is the polarisation mechanism. This mechanism has two components: the first is that falling droplets of ice and rain become electrically polarised as they fall through the atmosphere's natural electric field, and the second is that colliding ice particles become charged by electrostatic induction.
Quote Quote by smurfslappa
But I beg to differ, Chroot. I say energy is being absorbed, or released.
No, energy is simply changing forms. Before lightning can occur, there must exist a charge imbalance between cloud and ground (or between cloud and cloud). The formation of charge imbalance requires an investment energy; you cannot separate charges without investing energy, from heat, or the movement or air, or some other source. The charge imbalance so created stores that energy in the form of electric field. When the potential difference between the ground and cloud exceeds the breakdown voltage of the air, a current is established which neutralizes the charge imbalance. The energy released by the bolt of lightning, in the form of heat, light, and sound, is exactly the energy that was originally invested in the creation of the charge imbalance. No energy is "released" or "absorbed" from either the cloud or the ground; the cloud-ground system has simply converted some of its energy from electrical potential energy to light, heat, and sound. The total energy of the system is the same before and after the bolt.

Note that terms "released" and "absorbed" are not really scientific, and don't have any precise meaning. Perhaps that's why you did not understand my statement.

Quote Quote by smurfslappa
I mean, after seeing these recent hurricanes you still don't think they're simply clusters of thunderstorms fed by warm water that start spinning, right? Energy is constantly being absorbed, released, and lightning is no different.
So you're saying that the intensity of the 2005 hurricane system is, alone, evidence that our theories of lightning formation are wrong? Do you have some kind of additional critical thought or evidence to support your claim? Your argument appears to be a non-sequitur, like claiming that elephants can't be made of cells because they're so big.

Come on, hundreds of thousands of lightning bolts, air to ground. Were the droplets splitting rather spectactularly that day? Same with these hurricanes; they defied all previous conceptions of what a hurricane was, and yet people are still clinging to the outmoded model.
Hurricanes are heat engines which transport energy from low latitudes to high latitudes. They are ultimately powered by the Sun, like almost everything else on the planet. I don't know why you think the 2005 hurricane season somehow invalidates previous hurricane models. There were numerous powerful hurricanes in the 2005 season, and there's certainly a lot we can learn from them, but none was completely bewildering in isolation.

- Warren
smurfslappa
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Feb13-06, 07:06 PM
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Do you have some critical reasoning to think the model is ridiculous? Do you have some better model which can be shown to more accurately model the phenomenon?
I know you've heard of Blue Jets, Red Sprites and Elves. Low-light photographs of the upper atmosphere show that less-dense forms of plasma discharge occur as high as 70 km above the surface at the same time as the lightning. Knowing this, it doesn't take much to figure out that these represent the extremes of a usually much subtler process.

So you're saying that the intensity of the 2005 hurricane system is, alone, evidence that our theories of lightning formation are wrong?
Oh no no, I was laughing at the warm water theory. The speed at which these hurricanes intensified should have been reason enough to blow that theory out of the water.

There were numerous powerful hurricanes in the 2005 season, and there's certainly a lot we can learn from them, but none was completely bewildering in isolation.
Hurricanes boil off millions of tons of water into the atmosphere and then essentially quick freeze it. Noting Wilma's tropical location, condensation would normally be transferring all this heat into hot air, but in this case the air was actually extremely cold. In order for the cold to have even existed for a moment in this region of rapid condensation the storm had to have been pumping this energy off into space. This also supports the geologic connection between these storms and their related earthquakes/tremors.
chroot
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Feb13-06, 07:14 PM
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Quote Quote by smurfslappa
I know you've heard of Blue Jets, Red Sprites and Elves. Low-light photographs of the upper atmosphere show that less-dense forms of plasma discharge occur as high as 70 km above the surface at the same time as the lightning. Knowing this, it doesn't take much to figure out that these represent the extremes of a usually much subtler process.
I have no doubt that some large weather formations have an affect on air far above the tropopause.
Hurricanes boil off millions of tons of water into the atmosphere and then essentially quick freeze it. Noting Wilma's tropical location, condensation would normally be transferring all this heat into hot air, but in this case the air was actually extremely cold. In order for the cold to have even existed for a moment in this region of rapid condensation the storm had to have been pumping this energy off into space. This also supports the geologic connection between these storms and their related earthquakes/tremors.
Please note that our forum does not permit discussions of a "crackpot" nature, that is, without firm scientific footing.

Can you please give a mechanism by which a hurricane could be "pumping energy off into space?" Via some mass loss? Or by radiation? Certainly convection is out...

And if you intend to discuss some theorized connection between hurricanes and earthquakes, we'll need to see some evidence for that, too.

- Warren
smurfslappa
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Feb13-06, 09:29 PM
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When lightning happens. Does energy bleed off into space, or does the electrical energy get completely absorbed into the atmosphere?
I did not jump into this thread to explain the nature of all these things. I read this question, and I read your response to his question. I felt that it was inadequate, and very misleading. The guy asked if any of this electricity bleed off into space.

Note that term "bleed", like "released", is not really scientific, and doesn't have any precise meaning. So maybe you did not really understand his statement.

I have no doubt that some large weather formations have an affect on air far above the tropopause.
There's not much air up there, why don't you tell us how much of our atmosphere exists at about 70km? I don't want to be doing all the research. The tropopause is found between 15-20 km above the earth's surface, so I'm talking way above that. You know what's found at about 70km though? The ionosphere, so please acknowledge its mighty presence.

Let us give this picture a glance to see how these electric phenomenon work.
Elves, Sprites and Blue Jets, and their distance from the surface of the earth

I'm not saying that large weather formations cause the Elves and the Sprites and the Blue Jets, I'm saying that given the right conditions, they provide the medium for which these large electrical exchanges can occur. This energy is coming from or going out into space.

Please note that our forum does not permit discussions of a "crackpot" nature, that is, without firm scientific footing.
Well the research and data is certainly there, should we wait until it's being taught on Blue's Clues before we discuss the implications of it?

Earth trembles as big winds move in

From Harvard University's Bridget Samuels paper titled Quake Science: Advances in Earthquake Prediction
Nikolai Tarasovre-analyzed the available data from these tests in 1993 and discovered a striking correlation between the induced charges and the earthquakes that followed. About two thirds of the electromagnetic pulses were followed by earthquakes, some releasing up to a million times as much energy as had been applied during the preceding experiment. This may be because the electricity heated the groundwater and thus increased its pressure, triggering instability (as is known to have occurred in the Rocky Mountain waste disposal site during the 1960ís), or it may be explain-able by the piezoelectric effect
Could there be a connection? Probably, bro. The eyes in these hurricanes were some of the smallest ever recorded, had tons of lightning around the eye wall, and developed so quickly it could make your head spin. So can you call it crackpot?
chroot
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Feb13-06, 10:08 PM
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At this point, smurfslappa, I have no idea what your point is. The thread began by discussing how lightning works -- ordinary, low-altitude lightning from thunderstorms well within the troposphere -- and has been derailed into a discussion about interactions of the ionosphere and groundwater with the solar wind. My contribution to the thread was merely the statement that lightning is the conversion of potential energy to other forms (heat, light, etc.), something which you apparently challenge, but only in such marginal situations.

You seem to have a wealth of information, and I'd love to hear more about the phenomena you bring up here. For example, I still don't understand the mechanics of the elves, sprites, how they're formed, or how they might be involved in the movement of energy to or from the Earth. However, this is not the appropriate place for it. I welcome you to open a new thread in the same forum, and present some of your information more formally; you'll gain larger readership, too.

- Warren
Mk
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Feb14-06, 02:02 AM
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How might large enough differences in electrical charge build up? On Guam we get only a few storms accompanied by lightning per year. The closer you are to the ocean I think, the less lightning you get... then again Florida gets quite a bit and its a nice peninsula.
smurfslappa
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Feb14-06, 08:48 AM
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At this point, smurfslappa, I have no idea what your point is. The thread began by discussing how lightning works -- ordinary, low-altitude lightning from thunderstorms well within the troposphere -- and has been derailed into a discussion about interactions of the ionosphere and groundwater with the solar wind.
My original point was that one way lightning is created is during an electrical exchange with space, and that it's probably not droplets of water splitting. I saw that and I believed it to be wrong, and when pressed on the matter I started laying down my case.

These ELVES, Blue Jets, and Sprites are the extremes of a usually much subtler process, and so we usually don't see the energy exchange. As some hurricanes don't usually have lightning their electric fields are weaker and the storms are weaker as well. When there are massive electric fields above them the storms are always more violent and can have lightning around the eye wall.

How might large enough differences in electrical charge build up? On Guam we get only a few storms accompanied by lightning per year. The closer you are to the ocean I think, the less lightning you get... then again Florida gets quite a bit and its a nice peninsula.
With all the data we've been able to accumulate over the years, we ought to be able to get some straight answers by now.

A picture of the clouds to ground strikes around the U.S.

This tells me that there is some interesting about this peninsula. The ground beneath our feet is not a constant, and the eletrical resistivity of the Earth in this region is probably lower. Thus, it attracts way more lightning.

However, I also have to wonder about Tornado Alley, since I don't believe the current teaching that we're the only country to really see tornadoes because our Great Plains allow winds to gather enough speed. So what is really going on is left for us to try and figure out until these scientists tell us what a tornado/hurricane really is and how the Earth really works.

Picture of Tornado touch-downs per square mile

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chroot
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Feb14-06, 10:33 AM
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Quote Quote by smurfslappa
My original point was that one way lightning is created is during an electrical exchange with space, and that it's probably not droplets of water splitting. I saw that and I believed it to be wrong, and when pressed on the matter I started laying down my case.
And you're clearly venturing into crackpot territory here. The majority of thunderstorms, even those with lightning, do not have any vertical extent above the tropopause, meaning they certainly do not directly transfer any energy to space. You may be correct that some particularly powerful storms may involve structures that reach into the ionosphere, but it's certainly a tiny minority, and certainly irrelevant to the original poster's questions. Your assertion that lightning is a transfer of energy to or from space is quite literally wrong.

Also, you've failed to identify this mysterious mechanism by which energy can be transferred to or from a vacuum -- certainly you can't pull electrons from a vacuum, nor can you heat a vacuum (except via radiation). If you're moving energy to or from space, it has to be in the form of some particles, or some radiation. You've yet to identify what process is physically happening, which leads me to suspect you actually don't know what you're talking about.

- Warren
smurfslappa
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Feb14-06, 11:18 AM
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And you're clearly venturing into crackpot territory here. The majority of thunderstorms, even those with lightning, do not have any vertical extent above the tropopause, meaning they certainly do not directly transfer any energy to space.
And so this means they're droplets of water that split? All lightning isn't created equal, and I'm sure some of it is the carrying of charges between portions of the land, which is why you'll get cloud to ground and ground to cloud lightning in some storms. But this statement:

Your assertion that lightning is a transfer of energy to or from space is quite literally wrong.
sure isn't very open minded, now is it? Especially when your explanation for the process include, "I believe some of the specifics of the process are still somewhat unknown, however." Not all lightning is an exchange into space, but I'm pretty sure that ionosphere has some secrets to tell us. Too bad our weather balloons don't travel high enough and our billion dollar satellites can't study it, as is the excuse.

I've already shown you the picture of the Elves, Sprites and Jets, and told you they've photographed them occuring at the same time. This gives me the "up, up and awaaaay" impression. And like I've said over and over, those are the extremes. You usually don't see them because electrical resistivity of the atmosphere decreases with height up to about 50 kilometers, where it is roughly constant.

Also, you've failed to identify this mysterious mechanism by which energy can be transferred to or from a vacuum -- certainly you can't pull electrons from a vacuum, nor can you heat a vacuum (except via radiation).
It's not a vacuum, space is filled with plasma. In 1997 the Soho satellite detected a plasma structure issuing from Venus and almost reaching the surface of Earth. The report described the structure as "stringy." The early traditions of the peoples of Mexico, written down in pre-Columbian days, relate that Venus smoked. The star that smoked, or la estrella que humeava.

We all know that plasmas develop structure when a charge gradient produces the movement of electric current, so it's ridiculous to think that the space around Earth is filled with nothing.

So thinking along those lines, can you still not see how this exchange works? Do your own research already.
matthyaouw
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Feb14-06, 11:26 AM
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Quote Quote by smurfslappa
A picture of the clouds to ground strikes around the U.S.

This tells me that there is some interesting about this peninsula. The ground beneath our feet is not a constant, and the eletrical resistivity of the Earth in this region is probably lower. Thus, it attracts way more lightning.
I think the warm and humid conditions are more likely the cause. Globally, lightning is more prevelant in the tropics where warm humid air currents converging and rising are the dominant circulation. http://epod.usra.edu/archive/images/..._world_son.gif


However, I also have to wonder about Tornado Alley, since I don't believe the current teaching that we're the only country to really see tornadoes because our Great Plains allow winds to gather enough speed. So what is really going on is left for us to try and figure out until these scientists tell us what a tornado/hurricane really is and how the Earth really works.
They do occur elsewhere you know:
Quote Quote by wikipedia
Tornadoes do occur throughout the world as well; the most tornado-prone region of the world (outside North America), as measured by number of reported tornadoes per unit area, is the Netherlands, followed by the United Kingdom (especially England). Bangladesh, India, Argentina, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Estonia, and portions of Uruguay also have pockets of high tornadic activity. Occasional strong tornadoes occur in Russia, France, Spain, Japan, and portions of Paraguay and Brazil. Tornadoes have recently hit South Africa and parts of Pakistan in 2001 as well. Approximately 170 tornadoes are reported per year on land in Europe
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tornado


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