Lightning driven inner radiation belt energy deposition into the atmosphere: Regional and global estimates

C. J. Rodger, M. A. Clilverd, N. R. Thomson, D. Nunn, J. Lichtenberger

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12 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we examine energetic electron precipitation fluxes driven by lightning, in order to determine the global distribution of energy deposited into the middle atmosphere. Previous studies using lightning-driven precipitation burst rates have estimated losses from the inner radiation belts. In order to confirm the reliability of those rates and the validity of the conclusions drawn from those studies, we have analyzed New Zealand data to test our global understanding of troposphere to magnetosphere coupling. We examine about 10 000 h of AbsPAL recordings made from 17 April 2003 through to 26 June 2004, and analyze subionospheric very-low frequency (VLF) perturbations observed on transmissions from VLF transmitters in Hawaii (NPM) and western Australia (NWC). These observations are compared with those previously reported from the Antarctic Peninsula. The perturbation rates observed in the New Zealand data are consistent with those predicted from the global distribution of the lightning sources, once the different experimental configurations are taken into account. Using lightning current distributions rather than VLF perturbation observations we revise previous estimates of typical precipitation bursts at L∼2.3 to a mean precipitation energy flux of ∼1 × 10-3 ergs cm-2 s-1. The precipitation of energetic electrons by these bursts in the range L=1.9-3.5 will lead to a mean rate of energy deposited into the atmosphere of 3 × 10-4 ergs cm-2 min-1, spatially varying from a low of zero above some ocean regions to highs of ∼3-6 × 10-3 ergs cm-2 min-1 above North America and its conjugate region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3419-3430
Number of pages12
JournalAnnales Geophysicae
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 21 2005



  • Ionosphere (Active experiments)
  • Magnetospheric physics (Energetic particles; Precipitating; Magnetosphere-ionosphere interactions)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Geology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science

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