Charge structure and geographical variation of thunderclouds

Charge structure and geographical variation of thunderclouds

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Clouds in the Earth's atmosphere are composed of water droplets and ice crystals. Clouds are commonly white in appearance because these liquid and solid particles are large relative to the wavelengths of visible light, and so no selective scattering occurs to colour the cloud. Owing to the abundance of cloud condensation nuclei, clouds appear whenever the air becomes locally supersaturated in water vapour. This supersaturation condition is most often achieved by a lifting process in which air parcels subsaturated with respect to water vapour cool by adiabatic expansion. The lifting process is usually caused by the heating of air near the Earth's surface, which is itself warmed by sunlight. The warmed air parcels become buoyant relative to their surroundings and rise. A second mechanism for lifting depends on the forced ascent of air by horizontal pressure gradient forces. Regardless of the lifting mechanism, the altitude at which the supersaturation condition is achieved in the rising air parcel and cloud begins to form is the lifted condensation level (LCL).

Chapter Contents:

  • 1.1 The formation of clouds
  • 1.2 Local conditions necessary for thunderclouds
  • 1.3 The gross charge structure of thunderclouds
  • 1.4 Sprite-producing thunderclouds: mesoscale convective systems
  • 1.5 Geographical variability of thunderclouds
  • 1.5.1 Environmental controls
  • 1.5.2 Tropical thunderstorms
  • 1.5.3 Midlatitude thunderstorms
  • 1.5.4 Winter thunderstorms
  • References

Inspec keywords: atmospheric pressure; thunderstorms; scattering; condensation; sunlight; atmospheric humidity; atmospheric temperature; ice; clouds

Other keywords: LCL; cool water vapour; locally supersaturated air; sunlight; visible light wavelengths; subsaturated air parcel lifting process; Earth atmosphere cloud; Earth surface air heating; lifted condensation level; horizontal pressure gradient forces; warmed air parcels; thundercloud charge structure; supersaturation condition altitude; lifting mechanism; selective scattering; ice crystals; cloud condensation nuclei abundance; liquid particle; water droplets; rising air parcel; air forced ascent; cloud colour; solid particle; thundercloud geographical variation; cloud white appearance; adiabatic expansion

Subjects: Temperature of the lower atmosphere; Cloud physics; Atmospheric storms; Sunlight and atmospheric radiation; Water in the atmosphere (humidity, clouds, evaporation, precipitation)

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