Physical processes related to discharges in planetary atmospheres

R. Roussel-Dupré, J. J. Colman, E. Symbalisty, D. Sentman, V. P. Pasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on the rudimentary principles of discharge physics. The kinetic theory of electron transport in gases relevant to planetary atmospheres is examined and results of detailed Boltzmann kinetic calculations are presented for a range of applied electric fields. Comparisons against experimental swarm data are made. Both conventional breakdown and runaway breakdown are covered in detail. The phenomena of transient luminous events (TLEs), particularly sprites, and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are discussed briefly as examples of discharges that occur in the terrestrial environment. The observations of terrestrial lightning that exist across the electromagnetic spectrum and presented throughout this volume fit well with the broader understanding of discharge physics that we present in this paper. We hope that this material provides the foundation on which explorations in search of discharge processes on other planets can be based and previous evidence confirmed or refuted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-82
Number of pages32
JournalSpace Science Reviews
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jun 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Physical processes related to discharges in planetary atmospheres'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this