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A new balloon‐borne instrument designed by the author detects x rays produced in thunderstorms. The instrument uses a sodium iodide (NaI) scintillation detector, and flies on a small meteorological balloon. A three bin (30 to 60, 60 to 90, and 90 to 120 keV) x‐ray spectrum is acquired every 0.25 s. The deployment of these detectors with electric‐field meters has resulted in several vertical profiles of x‐ray intensity and electric‐field strength. These data support the hypothesis that the electric field generated by the thunderstorm can produce energetic electrons, which in turn emit bremsstrahlung x rays. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.