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We describe a feedback mechanism in the gas cascade amplification process used in magnetic immersion lens environmental scanning electron microcopy (ESEM). Feedback dominates gas gain under the conditions typically used for ultra-high-resolution ESEM and gives rise to novel dependencies of the imaging signal and noise on microscope operating parameters. It is ascribed tentatively to the generation of free electrons upon de-excitation of metastable species in the gas cascade. The results have implications for optimization of ESEM systems for applications such as critical dimension metrology and real-time imaging of nanostructure growth by gas mediated electron beam induced deposition.