The importance of electron-electron bremsstrahlung for terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, electron beams and electron-positron beams
Thunderstorms emit terrestrial gamma-ray flashes with photon energies of up to tens of MeV and electron-positron beams that are created by photons with energies above 1.022 MeV. These photons are produced through the bremsstrahlung process when energetic electrons collide with air molecules. However, presently used cross sections for bremsstrahlung treat only the interaction of the electrons with the nuclei of molecules while we here include their interaction with shell electrons. We simulate the production of energetic photons by a negative stepped lightning leader, and we find that electron-electron bremsstrahlung contributes significantly, although the direct photon emission is less than from electron-nucleus bremsstrahlung. However, electron-electron bremsstrahlung also ejects shell electrons and therefore feeds the electron population above 1 MeV significantly. We find that it hence dominates the photon spectrum of the stepped lightning leader at 10 MeV.