Miniature Whirlwinds Produced in the Laboratory by High-Voltage Electrical Discharges

Science  12 Jun 1970:
Vol. 168, Issue 3937, pp. 1349-1351
DOI: 10.1126/science.168.3937.1349


Laboratory experiments showed that under certain conditions of vorticity the electrical heatinig produced by a high-voltage discharge at atmospheric pressure can cause the formation of a miniature tornado-like vortex. Once it forms, this vortex stabilizes the electrical discharge along its axis and changes its character from that of a spark to high-pressure variety of a glow discharge. Electrical and dynamic parameters were measured. By relating observations and measurements made in these experiments to previous work and to analogous situations in nature, it is concluded that the heating produced by electrical discharges in a large storm may play a significant role in forming and maintaining natural tornadoes.