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Concept: Lightning


When lightning strikes soil, it may generate a cylindrical tube of glass known as a fulgurite. The morphology of a fulgurite is ultimately a consequence of the energy of the lightning strike that formed it, and hence fulgurites may be useful in elucidating the energy distribution frequency of cloud-to-ground lightning. Fulgurites from sand mines in Polk County, Florida, USA were collected and analyzed to determine morphologic properties. Here we show that the energy per unit length of lightning strikes within quartz sand has a geometric mean of ~1.0 MJ/m, and that the distribution is lognormal with respect to energy per length and frequency. Energy per length is determined from fulgurites as a function of diameter, and frequency is determined both by cumulative number and by cumulative length. This distribution parallels those determined for a number of lightning parameters measured in actual atmospheric discharge events, such as charge transferred, voltage, and action integral. This methodology suggests a potential useful pathway for elucidating lightning energy and damage potential of strikes.

Concepts: Energy, Volume, Lightning, Units of measurement, Cumulative distribution function, Lightning strike, Fulgurite, Lechatelierite


Lightning plays an important role in atmospheric chemistry and in the initiation of wildfires, but the impact of global warming on lightning rates is poorly constrained. Here we propose that the lightning flash rate is proportional to the convective available potential energy (CAPE) times the precipitation rate. Using observations, the product of CAPE and precipitation explains 77% of the variance in the time series of total cloud-to-ground lightning flashes over the contiguous United States (CONUS). Storms convert CAPE times precipitated water mass to discharged lightning energy with an efficiency of 1%. When this proxy is applied to 11 climate models, CONUS lightning strikes are predicted to increase 12 ± 5% per degree Celsius of global warming and about 50% over this century.

Concepts: Energy, Earth, United States, Lightning, Precipitation, Climate, Climate change, Global warming


Lightning and thunderclouds are natural particle accelerators. Avalanches of relativistic runaway electrons, which develop in electric fields within thunderclouds, emit bremsstrahlung γ-rays. These γ-rays have been detected by ground-based observatories, by airborne detectors and as terrestrial γ-ray flashes from space. The energy of the γ-rays is sufficiently high that they can trigger atmospheric photonuclear reactions that produce neutrons and eventually positrons via β(+) decay of the unstable radioactive isotopes, most notably (13)N, which is generated via (14)N + γ → (13)N + n, where γ denotes a photon and n a neutron. However, this reaction has hitherto not been observed conclusively, despite increasing observational evidence of neutrons and positrons that are presumably derived from such reactions. Here we report ground-based observations of neutron and positron signals after lightning. During a thunderstorm on 6 February 2017 in Japan, a γ-ray flash with a duration of less than one millisecond was detected at our monitoring sites 0.5-1.7 kilometres away from the lightning. The subsequent γ-ray afterglow subsided quickly, with an exponential decay constant of 40-60 milliseconds, and was followed by prolonged line emission at about 0.511 megaelectronvolts, which lasted for a minute. The observed decay timescale and spectral cutoff at about 10 megaelectronvolts of the γ-ray afterglow are well explained by de-excitation γ-rays from nuclei excited by neutron capture. The centre energy of the prolonged line emission corresponds to electron-positron annihilation, providing conclusive evidence of positrons being produced after the lightning.

Concepts: Electron, Photon, Fundamental physics concepts, Spin, Lightning, Positron, Radioactive decay, Particle accelerator


Oxygen consumption in marine sediments is often coupled to the oxidation of sulphide generated by degradation of organic matter in deeper, oxygen-free layers. Geochemical observations have shown that this coupling can be mediated by electric currents carried by unidentified electron transporters across centimetre-wide zones. Here we present evidence that the native conductors are long, filamentous bacteria. They abounded in sediment zones with electric currents and along their length they contained strings with distinct properties in accordance with a function as electron transporters. Living, electrical cables add a new dimension to the understanding of interactions in nature and may find use in technology development.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Electricity, Electric current, Lightning, Electrical conductor, Sediment, Molecule


Ball lightning, a fireball sometimes observed during lightnings, has remained unexplained. Here we present a comprehensive theory for the phenomenon: At the tip of a lightning stroke reaching the ground, a relativistic electron bunch can be produced, which in turn excites intense microwave radiation. The latter ionizes the local air and the radiation pressure evacuates the resulting plasma, forming a spherical plasma bubble that stably traps the radiation. This mechanism is verified by particle simulations. The many known properties of ball lightning, such as the occurrence site, relation to the lightning channels, appearance in aircraft, its shape, size, sound, spark, spectrum, motion, as well as the resulting injuries and damages, are also explained. Our theory suggests that ball lighting can be created in the laboratory or triggered during thunderstorms. Our results should be useful for lightning protection and aviation safety, as well as stimulate research interest in the relativistic regime of microwave physics.

Concepts: Electron, Physics, Lightning, Thunderstorm, Nikola Tesla, Atmospheric electricity, Ball lightning, St. Elmo's fire


Based on a vertically aligned ultra-long Pb(Zr0.52Ti0.48)O3 (PZT) nanowire array fabricated using electrospinning nanofibers, we developed a new type of integrated nanogenerator (NG) with ultra-high output voltage of 209 V and current density of 23.5 μA/cm2, which are 3.6 times and 2.9 times of the previous record values respectively. The output electricity can be directly used to stimulate the frog’s sciatic nerve, and induce a contraction of a frog’s gastrocnemius. The NG can instantaneously lighten a commercial light-emitting diode (LED) without the energy storage process.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Electric charge, Energy, Electric current, Lightning, Solar cell, Light-emitting diode, Diode


Death due to lightning strikes is infrequent, above all indoors. Some cases may take on a medical legal interest due to the unusual and uncommon circumstances in which they occur. The authors report an extremely rare case of electrocution occurred inside a house in a rural area. A 53-year-old man was reached by an electrical discharge originating from lightning while he was doing renovation work on a cottage. In this case, the correct interpretation of the autopsy and histological aspects and the attentive analysis of the circumstantial and environmental data led to the correct diagnosis of death and to the reconstruction of the dynamics with which it occurred. It was in fact possible to reconstruct that during a violent thunderstorm, lightning, discharging from the bottom upward formed an electric arc. The victim, who was close to metal objects (sawhorses), was struck on the left foot and the current exited from the right hand passing through the heart causing immediate death.

Concepts: Electricity, Lightning, Left-wing politics, Reconstruction era of the United States, Reconstruction, Political spectrum, House, Electrical breakdown


Carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP) were introduced to the aerospace, automobile and civil engineering industries for their high strength and low weight. A key feature of CFRP is the polymer sizing - a coating applied to the surface of the carbon fibres to assist handling, improve the interfacial adhesion between fibre and polymer matrix and allow this matrix to wet-out the carbon fibres. In this paper, we introduce an alternative material to the polymer sizing, namely carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on the carbon fibres, which in addition imparts electrical and thermal functionality. High quality CNTs are grown at a high density as a result of a 35 nm aluminium interlayer which has previously been shown to minimise diffusion of the catalyst in the carbon fibre substrate. A CNT modified-CFRP show 300%, 450% and 230% improvements in the electrical conductivity on the ‘surface’, ‘through-thickness’ and ‘volume’ directions, respectively. Furthermore, through-thickness thermal conductivity calculations reveal a 107% increase. These improvements suggest the potential of a direct replacement for lightning strike solutions and to enhance the efficiency of current de-icing solutions employed in the aerospace industry.

Concepts: Lightning, Polymer, Carbon, Tensile strength, Composite material, Electrical conductivity, Paper, Carbon fiber


Cardiac arrest victims who present with pulseless electrical activity (PEA) usually have a grave prognosis. Several conditions, however, have cause-specific treatments which, if applied immediately, can lead to quick and sustained recovery. Current teaching focuses on recollection of numerous conditions that start with the letters H or T as potential causes of PEA. This teaching method is too complex, difficult to recall during resuscitation, and does not provide guidance to the most effective initial interventions. This review proposes a structured algorithm that is based on the differentiation of the PEA rhythm into narrow- or wide-complex subcategories, which simplifies the working differential and initial treatment approach. This, in conjunction with bedside ultrasound, can quickly point towards the most likely cause of PEA and thus guide resuscitation. © 2013 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Concepts: Electricity, Causality, Lightning, Cardiac arrest, Asystole, Differential equation, Cardiac tamponade, Grave accent


Lightning flashes are known to initiate in regions of strong electric fields inside thunderstorms, between layers of positively and negatively charged precipitation particles. For that reason, lightning inception is typically hidden from sight of camera systems used in research. Other technology such as lightning mapping systems based on radio waves can typically detect only some aspects of the lightning initiation process and subsequent development of positive and negative leaders. We report here a serendipitous recording of bidirectional lightning initiation in virgin air under the cloud base at ~11,000 images per second, and the differences in characteristics of opposite polarity leader sections during the earliest stages of the discharge. This case reveals natural lightning initiation, propagation and a return stroke as in negative cloud-to-ground flashes, upon connection to another lightning channel - without any masking by cloud.

Concepts: Electric charge, Electricity, Lightning, Storm, Thunderstorm, TheStart, Cloud, Thundersnow