It turns out thunderstorms pack a much bigger punch than most people think. In the mid-1990s, we found that lightning and the associated electric field above a thunderstorm can be strong enough to produce a gamma ray blast detectable from space. These terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are believed to occur all over the world at a rate of about 500 per day. Researchers using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have discovered a similar, but previously undetected phenomena: the production of an antimatter beam from the top of these storms.
Fermi is built to observe and measure gamma rays from anywhere in the Universe, but it has also been used to look at terrestrial events as well. Over its first three years, Fermi has identified 130 TGFs. These TGFs have included gamma rays with an energy of 511 keV—the energy signature of an electron-positron annihilation event.
All these TGFs are postulated to be caused by electron/positron beams by the authors of the paper. Just think that every day regular weather events could be accomplishing things that we have only been able to recreate in the lab within the last 50 years or so.
Electrons getting accelerated to almost light speed. Wow. It is a measure of just how powerful thunderstorms can be. I wonder if there are storms on Saturn or Jupiter that are even more powerful?