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Nature Communications


Gamma-ray ‘glows’ are long duration (seconds to tens of minutes) X-ray and gamma-ray emission coming from thunderclouds. Measurements suggest the presence of relativistic runaway electron avalanches (RREA), the same process underlying terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. Here we demonstrate that glows are relatively a common phenomena near the tops of thunderstorms, when compared with events such as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. Examining the strongest glow measured by the airborne detector for energetic emissions, we show that this glow is measured near the end of a downward RREA, consistent with occurring between the upper positive charge layer and the negative screening layer above it. The glow discharges the upper positive layer by Z9.6 mA, strong enough to be an important charging mechanism of the storm. For this glow, the gamma-ray flux observed is close to the value at which relativistic feedback processes become important, with an avalanche multiplication factor of 4,500.



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