Investigating the relative contributions of charge deposition and turbulence in organizing charge within a thunderstorm

Matthew D. Brothers, Eric C. Bruning, Edward R. Mansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Large-eddy-resolving simulations using the Collaborative Model for Multiscale Atmospheric Simulation (COMMAS), which contains microphysical charging and branched-lightning parameterizations, produce much more complex net charge structures than conventionally visualized from previous observations, simulations, and conceptual diagrams. Many processes contribute to the hydrometeor charge budget within a thunderstorm, including advection, hydrometeor differential sedimentation, subgrid turbulent mixing and diffusion, ion drift, microphysical separation, and the attachment of ion charge deposited by the lightning channel. The lightning deposition, sedimentation, and noninductive charging tendencies contribute the most overall charge at relatively large scales, while the advection tendency, from resolved turbulence, provides the most "texture" at small scales to the net charge density near the updraft region of the storm. The scale separation increases for stronger storm simulations. In aggregate, lightning deposition and sedimentation resemble the smoother distribution of the electric potential, while evidence suggests individual flashes could be responding to the fine texture in the net charge. The clear scale separation between the advection and other net charge tendencies suggest the charge advection is most capable of providing net charge texture; however, a clear-cut causality is not obtained from this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3265-3284
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • Cloud resolving models
  • Lightning
  • Thunderstorms
  • Turbulence


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