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The electric charge difference between the earth and the atmosphere grows with altitude, at around 88 DC volts per meter. This electric potential may be shorted out when a thermonuclear explosion releases radiation which ionizes the atmosphere. About 5% of a nuclear explosion's energy is in the form of ionizing radiation. A study of lightning flashes ...

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Lightning must have some mass, how else is thunder created. If thunder is the sonic boom created by lightning moving faster than the speed of sound, then lightning must have mass. I don't hear thunder every time I turn a flashlight on.

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actually, the fire does not conduct electricity, it simple ionises the air around it and the free electrons create a conducting path across the gap

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The maximum Voltage before a current flow will occur from moon to earth is not that Schwinger limit! It is simply the value when field strength at the moons surface (smaller radius than earth) will be high enough to start field emission. Due to roughness of the moons surface this value is not easily calculated.

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Based on the calculation in my earlier answer, we were going to try to charge the earth with $10^{12}C$ and put that charge on the moon. Sending all the charge back in a giant lightning strike would then cause such a rapid change in electric field (not to mention that it dumps all the energy of twelve suns for a tenth of a second...) that it would ...

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I will estimate the potential difference, and later add in the other considerations. I am taking the entire space between the Earth and Moon to be vacuum - so I am totally ignoring the effects of the Earth's atmosphere. The Swinger Limit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwinger_limit) is the largest electric field that can exist before nonlinear effects start ...

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