May 08, 2013

It's Cosmic Ray Season

Thunder rumbled yesterday, during the night, and again this morning, with a mid-morning thunderstorm that included .30-caliber hail.

That was followed by a fire call that had me and two others in our brush truck—plus a sheriff's deputy and a BLM wildland engine—driving fruitlessly all over this corner of the county looking for a reported smoke sighting. We found nothing, and I suspect that someone saw a little wisp of storm cloud clinging to a mountainside and thought that it was smoke. That happens — and people are jumpy after last year's fire season.

Then it rained some more. The cosmic rays must really be acting up.
No one really knows what causes lightning to form and strike—the prevailing view is that it comes about as a result of collisions between ice crystals in clouds and hail stones. But because clouds and the lightning they produce are unpredictable and hard to pin down, no one has been able to prove this theory. Another theory, proposed by [Russian physicist Alexi] Gurevich twenty years ago, says that lightning is formed from the collisions between cosmic rays and water droplets present in thunderclouds. Now he and a colleague claim to have found evidence to support this idea.
Interesting stuff. Read the rest. 

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