A paper published just earlier this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres titled ‘A Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flash inside the Eyewall of Hurricane Patricia’ caught my eye earlier today. For those who might not be aware Hurricane Patricia was a hurricane that wreaked havoc on Mexico’s west coast back in 2015 and really devastated many. Basically, their paper goes over how this hurricane produced lightening to the extent where one flash was so energetically charged that it produced a beam of antimatter. This is terrifying for a number of reasons.
The abstract of this study goes as follows:
On 23 October 2015 at ~1732 UTC, the Airborne Detector for Energetic Lightning Emissions (ADELE) flew through the eyewall of Hurricane Patricia aboard National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Hunter WP‐3D Orion, observing the first terrestrial gamma‐ray flash (TGF) ever seen in that context, and the first ever viewed from behind the forward direction of the main TGF gamma‐ray burst. ADELE measured 184 counts of ionizing radiation within 150 μs, coincident with the detection of a nearby lightning flash. Lightning characteristics inferred from the associated radio signal and comparison of the gamma‐ray energy spectrum to simulations suggests that this is the first observation of a reverse beam of positrons predicted by the leading TGF production model, relativistic runaway electron avalanches. This paper presents the first experimental evidence of a previously predicted second component of gamma‐ray emission from TGFs. The brightest emission, commonly observed from orbit, is from the relativistic runaway electron avalanche bremsstrahlung; the second, fainter component reported here is from the bremsstrahlung of positrons propagating in the reverse direction. This reverse gamma‐ray beam penetrates to low enough altitudes to allow ground‐based detection of typical upward TGFs from mountain observatories.
We report the first observation of gamma‐ray emission from lightning within a hurricane eyewall, consistent with production by a downward beam of positrons.
This is both shocking and definitely not going to be the last time we see something like this happening. By sending one of their Hurricane Hunter planes into this hurricane NOAA was able to count the ionizing radiation of this within the blink of an eye. Typically lightning bolts involve the transfer of a billion or more joules of energy as this happens they become natural particle accelerators.
For more information on this please feel free to check out the video below. It is a lot more interesting than most people realize these rays are nowhere near easy to catch. We have been working for a very long time to get where we are today and advancements are only becoming more and more intense.
(Image Via: Today)