The Runaway Breakdown Theory of lightning

What is everybody's opinion on the Runaway Breakdown theory of lightning? In a nutshell, the Runaway Breakdown theory states that supercells are giant sponges for cosmic rays. Water droplets are said to absorb these rays and to lose electrons as a result; these electrons build up to cause lightning, according to this theory.

This theory is so unlike every other I've heard that it is likely bunk, but I thought it would be an interesting conversation starter. So, have at it! Do you think lightning really comes from gamma rays from outer space?
 
is this put out by the same guy that was on National Geographic channel talking about how hurricanes are man made and he can prove it by looking at satellite images showing square features in the clouds? :shock:
 
If that was true then every large cloud where raindrops were present in abundance would be producing lightning, which as chasers we especially unfortunately know that's not the case. While the exact charge generation process inside a thunderstorm is not fully understood, it is known that strong vertical motion (convection) and possibly the freezing of droplets in the higher reaches of the cloud most likely are doing the job.
 
This is a little off topic but it kinda goes with physics and lightning...

I recently had an idea for the triggering of high altitude lightning. Experiments show that lightning can be triggered with some trail of plasma. Here at UNM some physicists are trying to design make a laser induced lightning device that produces a trail of plasma. Anyhow I digress, I was recently went to a talk on meteors. They were talking about how they produce a trail of plasma. Anyhow, I was thinking it would be interesting to try and find out if there is a correlation between high altitude lightning and meteors. Perhaps meteors are a trigger to sprites?

About the article, I think it is an intresting idea but like anything else it needs proving which might be a little difficult. Other than that I can't speculate all that much.
 
There was a halfway decent article in Scientific American a few months back (Wow. May 2005 is more than a 'few') that covered the gamma/cosmic ray cascade theory fairly well. While SciAm is a pitiful shadow of it's 70's and 80's glory days, they did OK with this piece. Worth a read...

-Greg
 
I think I have solved it. All lightning comes from Dan's house. His low-light blanket experiments are actually the cause of all static discharges on earth. :)

Cosmic rays? Well, personally I think that separation of charge is due to updrafts and suspended graupel.

However, I wouldn't go so far as to say that weather and space never meet. We know that sprites and jets shoot up into space. Perhaps there is a relationship there that has yet to be revealed. Things on our planet tend to work in concert with other things, not separately.
 
Cosmic Ray / Runaway Breakdown lightning initation theory is actually the development of some well respected physicists and meteorology researchers. A field study occurred at Los Alamos in the summer of 2004. As much meteorological sense as the traditional non-inductive charging mechanism theory makes (e.g. the exchange of charge between riming graupel and ice crystals in the mixed phase region of a thunderstorm) in developing differential charge regions in a storm, it still does not explain the large values of electrical potential necessary to initiate lightning. Although no in-situ observations of cosmic rays initiating lightning have been witnessed, it is very likely that there are some unknown forces that allow the traditional positive-negative charge regions to reach electric fields large enough for breakdown to occur. This is definitely still one of the most uncertain areas of knowledge that exists in meteorology and geophysics.
 
Susan,

No one is questioning the precip/hail cloud charging mechanism. The big 'problem' with lightning is that the accumulated charges, so many Kvolts per meter, are not enough to produce a spark through the atmosphere. Air, even saturated with water and trace minerals, is a very good insulator. The Cosmic/gamma rays serve as a catalyst that initiates the presumed free electron cascade that, in turn, 'hatches' baby lightnings. (They're soooo cute, they are!)

-Greg
 
Originally posted by Greg Campbell
The Cosmic/gamma rays serve as a catalyst that initiates the presumed free electron cascade that, in turn, 'hatches' baby lightnings. (They're soooo cute, they are!)

-Greg

?

LOL

I'm not saying that cosmic influence is woo-woo science, but the fact is, we don't know. Part of lightning's appeal (to me) is that it's still untamed and contains many mysteries. If I ever photograph cute lightning though, I'll be sure to start the High Voltage "Cute" Lightning Gallery LOL
 
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