Initiation of Streamers Due to Hydrometeor Collisions in Thunderclouds

Qiheng Cai, Jaroslav Jánský, Victor P. Pasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


In order to initiate streamers and leaders under thunderstorm conditions the electric field should reach values higher than the critical breakdown field Ek (i.e., ∼30 kV·cm−1·atm−1). However, the maximum electric field in thunderstorms measured by balloons is ∼6–9 kV·cm−1·atm−1. In present work, to achieve the electric field amplification required for streamer initiation, a system of two approaching spherical hydrometeors is investigated. Streamer initiation is determined from a Meek number, describing electron multiplication in fields above Ek. We have found the relationships between radii of particles for successful streamer initiation in the gap between these two particles and also on the outside periphery of the two particle system when the particles are connected by a discharge channel. Furthermore, we estimated the frequency of streamer initiation using three realistic hydrometeor size model distributions available in the literature and found that the scenario of streamer initiation on the outside periphery is only possible for relatively high electric fields ≥0.5Ek at altitudes of 3 and 6 km.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7050-7064
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 27 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science


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