Due to the folding of the interplanetary magnetic field into the tail as a comet sweeps through the interplanetary medium, the magnetic field in the tail can be built up to the order of 100 γ at a heliocentric distance ≈1 AU. This folding of magnetic flux tubes also results in a cross-tail electric current passing through a neutral sheet. When streams of enhanced plasma density merge with the main tail, cross-tail currents as large as 109A may result. A condition could arise which causes a significant fraction of this current to be discharged through the inner coma, resulting in rapid ionization. The typical time scale for such outbursts of ionization is estimated to be of the order of 104 sec, which is in reasonable agreement with observation.