A physical model is proposed for description of electron kinetics driven by a powerful electromagnetic pulse in the Earth's atmosphere. The model is based on a numerical solution to the Boltzmann kinetic equation for two groups of electrons. Slow electrons (with energies below a few keV) are described in a two-term approximation assuming a weak anisotropy of the electron distribution function. Fast electrons (with energies above a few keV) are described by a modified macroparticle method, taking into account the electron acceleration in the electric field, energy losses in the continuous deceleration approximation, and the multiple pitch angle scattering. The model is applied to a problem of the electric discharge in a nitrogen, which is preionized by an external gamma-ray source. It is shown that the runaway electrons have an important effect on the energy distribution of free electrons, and on the avalanche ionization rate. This mechanism might explain the observation of multiple lightning discharges observed in the Ivy-Mike thermonuclear test in the early 1950's.
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