Produced by Storm Electrostatic Fields
W. Beaty 11/7/09

Years ago during museum exhibits work I was explaining rainbow optics ...and also explaining thunderstorm dynamics. I stumbled across a strange idea: shouldn't rainbows be visibly altered by the strong electrostatic fields in thunderstorms? E-fields should slightly distort falling raindrops. This would slightly alter the light distribution of a rainbow. Sometimes we should notice that a rainbow suddenly "flicks" during a lightning bolt, then slowly changes to its initial pattern as the e-fields build before another strike.       scroll down

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    I just heard from LH and JB on youtube about three videos apparently showing this in action! But it doesn't involve rainbows. Instead it's seen with suspended ice crystals or mist droplets condensing just above a rising thunderhead, brightly back-lit by the sun. Take a look:


    Rather than distortions of suspended droplets, perhaps these are "sundogs" or parhelia optical patterns caused by solar reflection from aligned ice crystals. A changing e-field could rotate all the ice plates or needles, causing the sundog to suddenly change shape and position. Or less likely, perhaps some condensing droplets are changing size under e-field influence (growth/shrinkage of small droplets is known to be altered by strong electrostatic fields.)

    I just heard that relatively tiny e-field of 1V/mm will influence the orientation of suspended ice crystals, and 10V/mm will totally align them. Storm fields are far stronger, so "leaping sundogs" should be quite common. See 2002 Foster/Hallett paper on ice crystal electrostatics, via Google Scholar.

    Aren't these just some sort of camera artifact? Well, "Chance Favors the Prepared Mind." In the past I've seen exactly these sweeping variable light patterns. In miniature. In a bottle. A bottle filled with fluid-suspended ferrous microparticles aligned by a nearby magnet. The b-field causes the particles to self-assemble into fibers, and the aligned fibers reflect light in an odd manner: forming bright "loops" and "beams" which change with alterations in the b-field, illumination angle, and the viewing position. Those green-colored magnetic field viewer-cards behave similarly in direct sunlight. With "aligned-needle optics," people in different locations should see different patterns of light in the clouds. Or if it's flat ice crystals, perhaps they'd only be visible over a small angle, and you'd need luck to be positioned just in the right viewing window. That would explain the rarity of reports of Crown Flash.

    "If you haven't found something strange during the day,
    it hasn't been much of a day."
    - J. A. Wheeler


    "All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered;
    the point is to discover them."
    - Galileo Galilei

    Speculations (new 7/2011)

    Knowing that the visible brightness of suspended ice crystals can be influenced by an e-field with value greater than 1V/mm, we might wish to search old eyewitness accounts (or online videos) for similar phenomena which have yet to be reported:
    • E-fields could cause transient flashing or brightness alteration of high ice clouds during earthquakes. Piezoelectric output of bedrock? If a slight cirrus overcast should become totally aligned by strong fields, ice clouds would no longer have random particle orientation to produce optical scattering. They might change from white to transparent, and eyewitnesses might report a sudden "darkening of the sky."
    • Same as above: transient flashing or brightness alteration of cirrus clouds in the period before earthquakes. Various quake-precursor phenomena perhaps may produce significant e-fields.
    • Very wide static (or moving) bright/dark bands in high ice clouds clouds caused by RF standing waves in the Earth's Schumann atmospheric EM waveguide. Low-frequency AC e-fields should align ice crystals, although the threshold value is probably larger than 1V/mm.
    • Distortion of the subsun, or perhaps coherent shifting of the subsun. Subsuns observed from airliners resemble solar reflections on water, but if their observed position is altered by storm fields, the subsun would not be seen to appear directly below the real sun. In that case the perceived glowing spot might be reported as an unidentified aircraft which follows the airliner. If such a subsun were observed to move during lightning discharges, easily attaining perceived velocities far in excess of the speed of sound, the eyewitness reports of this would be very strange.
    • Reports of two observed suns. This most often should occur at sunrise/sunset during conditions of wide-area overcast of high ice clouds. If ice crystals are aligned and a "super-sun" happens to be moved into a position visible from the ground, then eyewitnesses will report seeing a second sun accompanying the real one.
    • Boloid reports with no boloid. This might occur most often during sunset/sunrise with high ice cloud overcast. If ice crystals are aligned by e-fields and a "super-sun" becomes visible from ground locations, and if a dynamically changing e-field then causes the supersun to move across the (electrically darkened) sky, eyewitnesses may report seeing a giant meteor. But because different supersuns would be observed from different locations on the ground, the eyewitness reports of boloid trajectory would inexplicably conflict. Since dynamically changing e-fields wouldn't necessarily produce an ordinary bolide trajectory, the "boloid" might be seen to move in non-parabolic trajectories, to stop in place, or to suddenly change direction. And of course no evidence of impact would exist.

    "I am not very skeptical... a good deal of skepticism in a scientific man is advisable to avoid much loss of time, but I have met not a few men, who... have often thus been deterred from experiments or observations which would have proven servicable." - Charles Darwin


    I've occasionally heard reports of two moons in the sky. Quite a few reports, but no photos. Yet this effect might not be totally impossible. For example, during an airplane trip over desert, if there is a layer of cirrostratus or cirrus below you, and if the sun is near the horizon, sometimes you see a second sun below the first. It looks just like a reflection on water, as if there is a big lake hidden below the clouds. But under the clouds is desert and mountains. The "water" is actually a layer of suspended ice crystals, all of them hovering horizontally like tiny dinnerplates. Together they form a crude mirror. So, what if you were BELOW this mirror? If the moon was out at night, and if it was very low in the sky, then maybe you'd see a "subsun" moon reflection. But it would be upside-down from a normal subsun. The real moon would have a false moon hanging in the sky above it. If the image was clear enough, the higher "false moon" would apparently be a mirror-image of the real one.

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