Charge Distribution in Clouds

  • lightning is generated to reduce a buildup of positively and negatively charged areas in a cloud
  • most all lightning is observed in cold clouds - those containing water, supercooled water, and ice.
  • within a cold cloud, a region of positive charge is generated at the top of the storm
  • a region of negative charge builds up in the lower part of the storm

How is this charge distribution created??

  • this process is not completely understood
  • leading theories suggest that the charge separation is created as hail and graupel fall through supercooled drops and ice crystals.
  • the resulting collisions separate the charge -
    • the large hail and graupel particles acquire negative charge and fall the the lower part of the storm.
    • the smaller supercooled water particles and ice crystals acquire positive charge - are carried to the top of the storm in the updraft.