YEREVAN—Understanding how lightning is initiated within thunderclouds is probably one of the biggest mysteries in atmospheric science. The relationship between thundercloud electrification, lightning activity, and the generation of radio waves is not completely understood. A promising window into this area of research is the study of the interaction of thunderstorms, lightning, and cosmic radiation (so-called Thunderstorm ground enhancements – TGEs).
To discuss these high-energy atmospheric phenomena, a conference on Thunderstorms and Elementary Particle Acceleration (TEPA) was held at the Nor Amberd International Conference Center of the Yerevan Physics Institute (YerPhI) in Armenia. The Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) of YerPhI and Skobeltsyn Institute of Nuclear Physics of Moscow State University organized the workshop; YerPhI and the Armenian State Committee of Science sponsored the conference. Thirty scientists and students from the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Israel, Russia, and Armenia attended.
Discussions included the effects of cosmic radiation on lightning initiation, the emission of radio waves, and fluxes of subatomic particles from thunderclouds. Scientists analyzed and debated the results of experimental observations and computer models of these and other phenomena.
The workshop participants agreed that it would be useful to compare the vast amount of experimental data collected by laboratories in Armenia, Japan, Slovakia and the USA under different conditions and with different instruments. Armenian physicists suggested that sensors developed by other groups be installed at Armenia’s Aragats high altitude research station where intense thunderstorms occur during spring and autumn.
The Cosmic Ray Division of YerPhI has installed new electronic systems on Mt. Aragats, including electric field monitors and particle detectors. These instruments are synchronized with GPS systems to correlate the timing of events within a few tens of nanoseconds. On October 7, for the first time, TGE particle fluxes and lightning were captured on a millisecond time scale on the CRD particle detectors on Mt. Aragats, allowing researchers and conference attendees to look at the fine details of thunderstorm activity.
Young scientists and graduate students studying at Armenia’s Cosmic Ray Division conducted much of this research. Also these young scientists played a major role in organizing this conference.
The presentation slides and discussion videos are available on the conference website. More details can be found in the supplemental information in the online version of this meeting report.