Ground level gamma-ray and electric field enhancements during disturbed weather: Combined signatures from convective clouds, lightning and rain

Yuval Reuveni*, Yoav Yair, Colin Price, Gideon Steinitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We report coincidences of ground-level gamma-ray enhancements with precipitation events and strong electric fields typical of thunderstorms, measured at the Emilio Segre Cosmic Ray observatory located on the western slopes of Mt. Hermon in northern Israel. The observatory hosts 2 × 2″ Nal(TI) gamma ray scintillation detectors alongside a vertical atmospheric electric field (Ez) mill and conduction current (Jz) plates. During several active thunderstorms that occurred near the Mt. Hermon station in October and November 2015, we recorded prolonged periods of gamma ray enhancements, which lasted tens of minutes and coincided with peaks both in precipitation and the vertical electric field. Two types of events were detected: slow increase (up to ~ 300 min) of atmospheric gamma ray radiation due to radon progeny washout (or rainout) along with minutes of Ez enhancement, which were not associated with the occurrences of nearby CG lightning discharges. The second type showed 30 min bursts of gamma rays, coinciding with minutes of Ez enhancement that closely matched the occurrences of nearby CG lightning discharges, and are superimposed on the radiation from radon daughters washed out to near surface levels by precipitation. We conclude that a superposition of accelerated high energy electrons by thunderstorm electric fields and radon progeny washout (or rainout) explains the relatively fast near surface gamma-ray increase, where the minutes-scale vertical electric field enhancement are presumably caused due to nearby convective clouds. Our results show that the mean exponential half-life depletion times of the residual nuclei produced during events without lightning occurrences were between ~ 25–65 min, compared to ~ 55–100 min when lightning was present, indicating that different types of nuclei were involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-150
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Research
Volume196
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017

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