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Evidence for global circuit current flow through water droplet layers

Bennett, A. and Harrison, R. G. (2009) Evidence for global circuit current flow through water droplet layers. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 71 (12). pp. 1219-1221. ISSN 1364-6826

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To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.jastp.2009.04.011


Abstract Foggy air and clear air have appreciably different electrical conductivities. The conductivity gradient at horizontal droplet boundaries causes droplet charging, as a result of vertical current flow in the global atmospheric electrical circuit. The charging is poorly known, as both the current flow through atmospheric water droplet layers and the air conductivity are poorly characterised experimentally. Surface measurements during three days of continuous fog using new instrument techniques show that a shallow (of order 100 m deep) fog layer still permits the vertical conduction current to pass. Further, the conductivity in the fog is estimated to be approximately 20% lower than in clear air. Assuming a fog transition thickness of one metre, this implies a vertical conductivity gradient of order 10 fS m−2 at the boundary. The actual vertical conductivity gradient at a cloud boundary would probably be greater, due to the presence of larger droplets in clouds compared to fog, and cleaner, more conductive clear air aloft.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:1937
Uncontrolled Keywords:Air-earth current; Conduction current density; Atmospheric electricity

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