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Name: Nathan
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Question:
I attended a presentation by a high school student who is a member of QuarkNet. He performed a cosmic ray flux experiment looking for changes in flux looking vertically with coincident counters. A thunderstorm occurred during his overnight collection, calibration, etc. seemed to be appropriate.

The student claimed that the decrease in flux was due to a higher density in the atmosphere (liquid and solid water in the clouds is denser than atmospheric gases). I thought that since the barometric pressure was low, the density would be less (p = rho * g * delta y). Please help us understand what happens to the density of the atmosphere during a thunderstorm.

Also, if there are any suggestions about improving the controls in this experiment, it would be greatly appreciated.


Replies:
Nathan,

The density of the air is less in low pressure areas, so I do not think that that is the physical consideration.

A better explanation of the reduced flux may be that hydrometeors (water droplets, ice crystals, and even hail) in the thunderstorm and surrounding clouds absorbed cosmic radiation as it came through the atmosphere, thereby preventing it from reaching the vertical column of air that he was measuring.

David R. Cook
Meteorologist
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory


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