A modelling study of the effect of cloud saturation and particle growth rates on charge transfer in thunderstorm electrification.

R. P. Mitzeva, Clive Saunders, B. Tsenova

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    Numerical studies have been made of the importance of cloud saturation to the sign of charge transfer during graupel/ice crystal interactions in thunderstorms. Previous laboratory studies led to the idea that the diffusional growth rates of the interacting ice surfaces may influence the sign of the charge transferred during brief collisional contact. The ice crystals grow by vapour diffusion in a supersaturated environment while the graupel surface grows by diffusion under low accretion rate conditions, but will sublimate when heated sufficiently by riming. The graupel surface is also influenced, even under net sublimation conditions, by the vapour released to it from droplets freezing on its surface. In a cloud, the diffusional growth rates are also affected by ventilation when the supercooled droplets and their local environment flow past the riming surface.

    The diffusional growth rates of ice crystals and riming graupel particles are calculated for various cloud saturation ratios, then the sign of electric charge transferred during crystal/graupel collisions is determined according to the concept of the relative vapour diffusional growth rates, according to Baker et al., 1987 [Baker, B., Baker, M.B., Jayaratne, E.J., Latham, J., Saunders, C.P.R., 1987. The influence of diffusional growth rates on the charge transfer accompanying rebounding collisions between ice crystals and soft hailstones. Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc. 113, 1193–1215]. It is found necessary, in order to account for the observation of positive charging of riming graupel at high accretion rates, to modify the assumptions of Baker et al. in order to increase the flux of vapour to the graupel surface. The variable growth parameters available may be adjusted to represent the environmental saturation conditions in various laboratory experiments, including the mixing of clouds from regions having different growth conditions, and are used to determine charge sign sensitivity to cloud saturation ratio, temperature and accretion as measured by the cloud effective liquid water content.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)206–221
    JournalAtmospheric Research
    Issue number1-4
    Early online date5 May 2005
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2005


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