Relativistic runaway breakdown in low-frequency radio

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article – Annual report year: 2010

  • Author: Fullekrug, M., United Kingdom

    Centre for Space, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Bath, United Kingdom

  • Author: Roussel-Dupre, R., United States

    SciTech Solutions, United States

  • Author: Symbalisty, E.M.D., United States

    Atmospheric, Climate and Environmental Dynamics Group, Earth and Environment Sciences Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, United States

  • Author: Chanrion, Olivier Arnaud

    Solar System Physics, National Space Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Elektrovej, 2800, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

  • Author: Odzimek, A., United Kingdom

    Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, United Kingdom

  • Author: van der Velde, O., Spain

    Department of Electrical Engineering, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain

  • Author: Neubert, Torsten

    Solar System Physics, National Space Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Elektrovej, 2800, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark

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The electromagnetic radiation emitted by an electron avalanche beam resulting from relativistic runaway breakdown within the Earth's atmosphere is investigated. It is found from theoretical modeling with a computer simulation that the electron beam emits electromagnetic radiation which is characterized by consecutive broadband pulses in the low-frequency radio range from similar to 10 to 300 kHz at a distance of similar to 800 km. Experimental evidence for the existence of consecutive broadband pulses is provided by low-frequency radio observations of sprite-producing lightning discharges at a distance of similar to 550 km. The measured broadband pulses occur similar to 4-9 ms after the sprite-producing lightning discharge, they exhibit electromagnetic radiation which mainly spans the frequency range from similar to 50 to 350 kHz, and they exhibit complex waveforms without the typical ionospheric reflection of the first hop sky wave. Two consecutive pulses occur similar to 4.5 ms and similar to 3 ms after the causative lightning discharge and coincide with the sprite luminosity. It is concluded that relativistic runaway breakdown within the Earth's atmosphere can emit broadband electromagnetic pulses and possibly generates sprites. The source location of the broadband pulses can be determined with an interferometric network of wideband low-frequency radio receivers to lend further experimental support to the relativistic runaway breakdown theory.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Publication date2011
Journal numberA1
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 12
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