A theory on the production of ozone, nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide during a thunderstorm is presented. The catalytic agents for the production of the molecules are lightning and point discharges. The concept of an efficiency parameter giving the number of molecules produced per unit of energy absorbed by the atmospheric constituents from lightning or point discharges is central to the theory. Values of the efficiency parameters are given for two cases. In one case the parameters are for atomic oxygen and nitrogen recombining with the atmospheric constituents. In the other case the parameters are for an equal number of neutral and ionized atomic species of oxygen and nitrogen recombining with the atmospheric constituents. Parameters for the two cases, which should span the actual physical situation, are given because the degree of ionization of the recombining atoms is unknown. Parameters relevant to laboratory discharges and lightning are given. An assessment of the importance of thunderstorms as a worldwide source of ozone, nitric oxide, and nitrogen dioxide would require a much better understanding of the sinks and transport processes: however, thunderstorms are likely to be important as a large interim source of ozone and oxides of nitrogen for areas near and in thunderstorms. If certain suggested reactions for the production of nitrous oxide are verified, thunderstorms could be an important worldwide source of nitrous oxide.
Journal of Geophysical Research
- Pub Date:
- February 1977