Technology: Most powerful electrical storm on record detected - PressFrom - US

TechnologyMost powerful electrical storm on record detected

22:50  23 april  2019
22:50  23 april  2019 Source:

Solar storms can be even worse if you live near certain rocks

Solar storms can be even worse if you live near certain rocks New USGS data show how cities have higher or lower risks of blackouts during a powerful sun storm depending on their regional geology.

As clouds gathered over the city of Philadelphia in 1752, Benjamin Franklin stood outside with a simple kite-borne experiment and proved the electric nature of lightning. Now, more than 250 years later, scientists have uncovered a shocking secret about the awesome power of thunderstorms.

With the help of charged particles originating from space, a team in India has for the first time accurately measured the electric properties of a giant thundercloud, determining that the behemoth contained 10 times more energy than any previously investigated storm. Along with discovering a novel connection between cosmic and terrestrial events, the findings might help solve a 25-year-old mystery in high-energy physics.

Australia hit with second 'severe' cylcone in two days

Australia hit with second 'severe' cylcone in two days A severe category 3 cyclone blew into the key mining region of Pilbara in Western Australia Sunday, forcing evacuations and a halt to port operations, as the north of the country dealt with the effects of an even more powerful storm that hit the previous day. 

Since 2001, physicists in Udagamandalam, India, have been using the Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3, or GRAPES-3, telescope to monitor subatomic particles called muons. Cascades of these naturally occurring particles rain down on Earth when cosmic rays from the distant universe hit our upper atmosphere. (Here’s how scientists recently used muons to discover a previously unknown void inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.)

Intriguingly, the highly sensitive GRAPES-3 instrument often detected slight decreases in the muon shower’s intensity between April and June, and again between September and November—just when the subtropical region receives its highest rainfall.

Electrical fire knocks out power to much of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Electrical fire knocks out power to much of Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Reuters) - A fire at an electrical substation plunged much of the city of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, into darkness on Tuesday night, officials for power company Florida Power & Light said. The power outage struck as Fort Lauderdale played host to throngs of visiting college students converging on the city and neighboring South Florida communities this month for spring break festivities, an annual beer-soaked rite of youthful revelry.

“This was more of an amusing episode for us than anything serious,” says study coauthor Sunil Gupta, a high-energy physicist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India, whose team described their work last month in Physical Review Letters. “We were studying high-energy cosmic rays and interplanetary space, and not so much the thunderstorms.”

Most powerful electrical storm on record detected© Photograph by GRAPES-3 collaboration

The GRAPES-3 muon telescope.

Packing a punch

Muons carry negative charge, meaning their paths are distorted by electric fields. Gupta wondered if that property could be used to calculate how much energy the thunderclouds contained.

Back in 1929, Nobel prize-winning physicist Charles Thomson Rees Wilson measured the electric field inside a thundercloud and found it to be a surprisingly large 12,700 volts per inch. This implied that the storms, which can stretch for miles, should have enormous total electric potentials of around a gigavolt, or the equivalent of nearly a billion AA batteries.

Hurricane Michael gets an upgrade to rare Category 5 status

Hurricane Michael gets an upgrade to rare Category 5 status Weather forecasters have posthumously upgraded last fall's Hurricane Michael from a Category 4 to a Category 5.

But measuring voltage across an object usually requires placing two wires at either end, and nobody had figured out how to do that for a large and amorphous thing like a cloud. Airplane and balloon experiments, which have flown through thunderstorms taking readings at various locations, found electric potentials of tens of millions of volts, with the largest previously recorded event having 130 million volts.

Study coauthor Balakrishnan Hariharan devised a model that determined how powerful an electric field would need to be to alter the number of muons detected in GRAPES-3. Working backward, the team could then use their muon observations to estimate the electric field inside the clouds above the experiment.

In the GRAPES-3 data, the researchers saw the electrical effects of 184 thunderstorms over the course of three years. The muons indicated that one particular leviathan, which appeared on December 1, 2014, briefly contained an electric potential of nearly 1.8 gigavolts. That’s enough energy to run all of New York City for half an hour, Gupta says.

‘Beauty and the beast’ aurora is captured by astronomer who warns that the solar storms behind it could one day DEVASTATE every electrical device on Earth

‘Beauty and the beast’ aurora is captured by astronomer who warns that the solar storms behind it could one day DEVASTATE every electrical device on Earth Juan Carlos Casado from Spain snapped a beautiful aurora that lit up the night sky of Iceland in a swirl of green that has been chosen as a NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day. Although the solar storms that generate aurora are usually harmless, a large enough one hitting earth could have catastrophic effects. One such storm recorded back in 1859 knocked out telegraph networks globally, causing telegraph pylons to spark and giving operators painful electric shocks.

“To achieve such high voltages on the ground is almost impossible,” he adds. “But nature seems to know how to do it almost effortlessly.”

Dangerous discharge

Because the muon-based measurements can see large areas of the clouds, they are more accurate than plane- or balloon-borne experiments. That means prior data likely delivered underestimates, and many thunderstorms should have billions of volts of energy inside them. This, in turn, might illuminate the origins of a long-standing head scratcher in atmospheric physics.

In 1994, NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was built to monitor powerful flashes of light occurring in distant galaxies called gamma-ray bursts, noticed a few high-energy eruptions coming from Earth’s atmosphere. Nobody has since been able to give a full explanation for why our planet should produce events similar to some of the most powerful phenomena in the cosmos.

Though lightning had been suspected to play a role, the thundercloud energies observed in previous experiments were not great enough to explain the terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. (Find out how thunderstorms can shoot antimatter into space.)

Now, GRAPES-3’s gigavolt measurements are the first to suggest that such storms contain enough power to produce this enigmatic effect. Gupta says the team would like to include a gamma-ray detector in their instruments in future to help solidify the connection. They would also like to study how quickly the voltage in a thunderstorm is dissipated through lightning strikes.

“We want to look for the discharge,” he says. “Because that’s what causes most of the damage.”

For now, the existing measurements have already impressed other researchers.

“It’s an application that nobody has thought of before,” says Michael Cherry, who studies high-energy cosmic rays and gamma rays at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and was not involved in the recent work.

Most researchers in the community would have previously been skeptical that ultra-powerful cosmic rays could be affected by comparatively mundane lightning, he adds. But the results suggest that lightning is one of the most powerful natural particle accelerators that Earth-bound physicists can access.

“These high-energy processes don’t have to be studied in an exotic source like a distant black hole or supernova,” Cherry says. “We can study them by looking up close and personal at nearby lightning.”

Storm warnings issued as tornadoes hit Oklahoma and Texas.
Powerful gusts of wind and rain whipped through parts of Oklahoma late Monday

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks

Topical videos:

usr: 373
This is interesting!