If lightning in the storm clouds is generated by the friction of ice crystals and water droplets, it would make sense that any type of cloud can generate static electricity, albeint in smaller amounts.

The Question

What are the factors that directly control the amount of static electricity that a cloud generates, and how those factors affect said amount?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm guessing you want some sort of closed circuit generator that uses clouds, or for that matter, steam? $\endgroup$
    – Commoner
    Oct 17 '21 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Commoner no, I simply want to know what's the amount of electricity a cloud passively generates, let's say, per one cubic meter $\endgroup$
    – acki02
    Oct 17 '21 at 12:32
  • $\begingroup$ it would help if we had a good model of the process of charge separation in lightning clouds. Unfortunately, at present we don't, or at least we didn't know 30 years ago. We know that it happens, and we know that it is somehow the result of the vertical movement of water droplets and crystals in an electric field. (That's why tall, convective cumulonimbus clouds are more likely to produce lightning strikes than other types of clouds.) Other than that, it is still magic. (AFAIK, of course.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 17 '21 at 14:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Clouds do not generate electricity passively. Electricity in the air comes from both external sources and from movement of particles in the air. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_electricity So, the volume of stuff going through that one cubic meter in a period of time determines the electricity. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Oct 17 '21 at 14:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ researchgate.net/publication/… is an oldish (2007) review article that may provide some entrypoints if someone would like to look into it. $\endgroup$
    – bukwyrm
    Oct 24 '21 at 11:25

Since there are many different types of clouds, I'll use the thundercloud as an example.

The thundercloud, or a Cumulonimbus cloud, carries 1 billion volts of electricity inside of it. They carry about 2 gigawatts of power, which is enough to power New York City for about 20 minutes! This is the website I got this information from, you should definitely take a look! https://www.livescience.com/65055-thundercloud-voltage-mapped-with-muons.html

I hope this helps you! :)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Neither volts or watts are units of energy. Unfortunately that article plays fast and loose with terms, and I doubt the author actually understands them. There is a quote from a scientists (who presumably does know the units of energy) that "The amount of energy stored here is enough to supply all the power needs of a city like New York City for 26 minutes," but unfortunately it doesn't say how much energy that is. Though one could certainly look up the average power consumption of NYC and work out how much energy it consumes in 26 minutes. $\endgroup$
    – Gene
    Oct 18 '21 at 6:23

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