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Identifying The Different Types Of Storm Clouds
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A boat on the water is a great place to watch clouds. It’s also a pleasant way to pass the time when you are bored. It can also save you and your family from being caught in a sudden thunderstorm. A skipper knows to always check the weather forecast before leaving the dock, but sometimes weather changes happen very rapidly. You can “keep a weather eye” by watching clouds and paying attention to changes in the wind and the seas.
When I first started to learn about clouds, I found all the names confusing and hard to remember. So I developed my own system for classifying clouds. (If you have your own system, let us know and we’ll put it up here.)
First you need to identify clouds by their shape. There are actually ten different types of clouds, but for now we’ll concentrate on two basic shapes . The first type looks like spoonfuls of marshmallow cream or cool whip (cool whip = cumulus). These are Cumulus clouds and they are puffy. Cumulus clouds can look like animals or people. The other shape of clouds is pretty flat and straight – your plain old white bread clouds (straight = stratus). Stratus clouds are flat (like bread) and can be layered or thin and wispy.
Terrestrial Atmospheric Electricity
Leslie C. Hale, in Encyclopedia of Physical Science and Technology (Third Edition), 2003
In 1752 T. D’Alibard and B. Franklin independently confirmed the electrical nature of thunderclouds; in the same year L. Lemonnier observed that electrical effects occurred in fine weather. Not until the late nineteenth century was the electrical conductivity of air established by several workers, and the discovery of cosmic ray ionization by V. Hess and the postulation of the global electrical circuit by C. T. R. Wilson came in the early twentieth century. Now known as the classical global circuit, this concept has stood the test of time and is still generally agreed to be correct. However, some observations cannot be fully explained by classical theory. In any case the classical theory provides a convenient framework in which to discuss topics in atmospheric electricity and solar–terrestrial relationships of an electrical nature.
ELECTRICITY IN THE ATMOSPHERE | Lightning
M.B. Baker, in Encyclopedia of Atmospheric Sciences (Second Edition), 2015
Lightning is an electrical discharge; i.e., a rapid redistribution of electrical charge within thunderclouds or between a cloud and its surroundings. IC, or intra-cloud lightning, is a discharge between two points in the same cloud; C–G, or cloud-to-ground lightning, transfers charge between a point in cloud and a point on the ground below. (Intercloud lightning, connecting points in different clouds, will not be treated here.)
A lightning flash consists of several components. In C–G flashes (which are those most widely and closely studied) a low-current (∼1 kA), low-luminosity channel is initiated in the cloud. The channel is a fully ionized plasma tube several centimeters in diameter. Joule heating by electrical currents in the plasma raises the channel temperature to above 20 000 K. The heated gas expands, giving rise to shock waves producing the sound called thunder. The current carried by the channel discharges tens of millions of volts. The high temperatures inside the channel favor certain chemical reactions of atmospheric significance; in particular, the production of NOx, treated elsewhere in this encyclopedia (see Stratospheric Chemistry Topics: Reactive Nitrogen (NOx and NOy)).
Electricity in the Atmosphere: Global Electrical Circuit☆
Earle R. Williams, in Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, 2018
Structure and Operation of the DC Global Circuit
The conductivity structure of the giant spherical capacitor and electromagnetic waveguide is established by an interplay between ionization from the Sun and from deep space, and the exponential decline of air density with altitude above the Earth’s surface. The principal radiation components in this context are the galactic cosmic radiation and the UV and X-ray photons from the Sun. The cosmic radiation is the most energetic and serves to dominate the ionization and electrical conductivity at altitudes from 0 to 50 km. The cosmic radiation is also largely isotropic and so the conductivity structure of the lower atmosphere is spherically symmetrical.
The UV radiation from the Sun is largely removed in causing ionization at higher altitudes—in the “D” and “E” regions of the ionosphere—and since this radiation is markedly different between day and night, the conductivity structure is endowed with an asymmetry between the daytime and the nighttime hemispheres. As a result, the electromagnetic waveguide departs slightly from spherical symmetry.
In treating the DC global circuit, we are concerned primarily with the spherically symmetric lowest region of the atmosphere, where small ions are the dominant charge carrier. Over the oceans, where the air is relatively free of aerosol particles, the altitude (z) dependence of the electrical conductivity can be approximated by the exponential function
Cloud Shape and Cloud Type
Clouds are classified according to their shape, height, content, and formation mechanism. A good summary of the cloud types is provided here in Fig. 8.6.
Cumulus clouds are often called “fair weather” clouds as they occur generally over land on sunny days when solar heating creates thermal convection currents. This explains the “puffy” shape of these clouds. These clouds are found typically between 0.6 and 0.9 km altitude. They occur worldwide except in Antarctica where it is too cold. They are liquid water clouds and are formed by thermal convection currents.
Cumulonimbus clouds are the towering thunderclouds that strike fear into many who see them. As suggested in Fig. 8.6 the top of this tower spreads out reflecting the stronger winds at these higher elevations. To form, there are three critical conditions: (1) a ready supply of warm, moist air, which rises at speeds of up to 40–113 km/h, (2) tropospheric winds need to increase considerably with height to encourage the forward slant of the cumulonimbus tower, and (3) the atmosphere around the cloud needs to be “unstable.”
These clouds are common in the tropics and temperate regions, but very rare at the poles. Heavy rainfall is associated with these clouds as suggested in Fig. 8.6. These are liquid clouds throughout with ice crystals at the top. They are formed by very strong thermal convection.
Stratus clouds form as cold air flows out over warm sea temperatures and pick up both heat and moisture from the ocean. This air then flows over colder sea surface temperatures (Fig. 8.7), which forms fog that is closely associated with stratus clouds.
Solar-terrestrial Magnetic Activity and Space Environment
S.B. Mende, … U.S. Inan, in COSPAR Colloquia Series, 2002
High spatial resolution triangulated observation of sprites revealed interesting properties of the beads under C sprites. These beads are spatially well defined and appear to form near vertical strings at the bottom of c sprites below 74 km. The vertical spacing of the beads on average is less than one km. We examined the dependence of the bead spacing with altitude and found that there is a slight variation with altitude and the bead separation tends to increase slowly with altitude. The “scale height” or the logarithmic variation of bead spacing with altitudes, was about 20 km in one case and 25 km in another.
The scale height of the atmosphere at sprite altitude is about 6 km. This shows that the bead formation phenomena are not solely dependent on the atmospheric mean free path. The externally impressed electric field electric field decreases with altitude probably as an inverse square or inverse cube law. One would therefore expect a longer “bead scale height” than the atmospheric scale height.
S. Constable, in Treatise on Geophysics (Second Edition), 2015
5.07.1.2 The Earth’s Geomagnetic Environment
Temporal variations in the Earth’s magnetic field exist on all timescales from radio frequencies to the reversal record (Figure 2). Electromagnetic induction methods can exploit only those fields that are externally generated, which in principle means periods shorter than about 1 year for GDS methods (with the possible exception of the 11-year sunspot cycle) and, because the induced electric field components become smaller as period increases, periods of a few weeks or shorter for MT methods. As mentioned in Section 5.07.1, the propagation of internally generated fields of the secular variation upward through the mantle may be used to estimate conductivity (Alexandrescu et al., 1999; McDonald, 1957; Pinheiro and Jackson, 2008), but the lack of an independent estimate of the source-field timing limits this approach (Backus, 1983).
Thunderclouds of impending war.