Electric Currents Accompanying Tornado Activity

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Science  22 Sep 1967:
Vol. 157, Issue 3795, pp. 1434-1436
DOI: 10.1126/science.157.3795.1434


Measurements of the magnetic field and earth current in the vicinity of a tornado show large steplike deflections coincident with the touching down of the funnel. Calculations with a simple current model indicate that a minimum current of several hundred amperes must be postulated to account for the observed deflection in magnetic field. The existence of a steady current of 225 amperes for a period of about 10 minutes provides joule heat at the rate of approximately 1010 joules per second, and involves a total charge transfer of 135,000 coulombs. The calculations imply that a tornado is electrically equivalent to several hundred isolated thunderstorm cells active simultaneously.