Meteorological and electrical aspects of winter thunderclouds


  • N. Kitagawa,

  • K. Michimoto


The winter thunderclouds that frequently visit the southeastern coastal area of the Japan Sea were investigated by the field work, operating radars, the sferics direction-finder system, and the field-mill network. The clouds take the dipole electrical structure at their developing stage and then take the tripole structure at the mature stage. However, the period covering both dipole and tripole structures is very short (usually less than 10 min in early or late winter and less than several minutes in midwinter), because the graupel particles that carry the main negative charge and the lower positive charge do not stay stationarily in the clouds but fall off rapidly. For the remainder of the period of cloud duration, which lasts relatively long, the positive charge predominates in the clouds. The grade of charge separation and lightning activity is restricted by the altitude of −10°C temperature level. When the altitude is lower than 1.8 km, the clouds exhibit weak or no lightning activity. When it is lower than 1.4 km, the clouds exhibit neither natural lightning discharge nor tripole electrical structure.