Observations of Elves and Radio Wave Perturbations by Intense Lightning

Maja Tomicic*, Olivier Chanrion, Thomas Farges, Janusz Mlynarczyk, Ivana Kolmašová, Serge Soula, Jeff Lapierre, Christoph Köhn, Torsten Neubert

*Corresponding author for this work

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Electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and quasi‐static electric fields (QE) from powerful lightning heat and ionize the lower ionosphere. The EMP disturbance may appear as an elve at ∼80–95 km altitude, and the QE field as a halo or a sprite at ∼60–80 km altitude. Both are thought to perturb crossing radio signals because of changes to the electrical conductivity of the regions. Here we present an analysis of 63 elves and corresponding radio signal perturbations from an almost stationary thunderstorm system that allows us to untangle some of the dependencies of perturbations on the lightning characteristics. The amplitude perturbations of a VLF‐transmitter signal are characterized as either long‐recovery, early events (LOREs) or as early events. We find that LOREs are related to lightning with high peak currents and bright elves, and that their sign (amplitude increase or decrease) depends on the relative locations of the transmitter, disturbance and receiver. Based on a subset of strokes, lightning with elves has on average ∼3 times the impulse charge‐moment‐change and power in broadband as lightning of similar peak currents without elves. The early events occur without observed elves, sprites or halos. They recover in ∼10–100 s and are observed for both polarities of cloud‐to‐ground lightning and for intracloud flashes. It is proposed that these observations may relate to regions of reduced conductivity caused by an electron attachment/detachment process at lower heights, or by electron enhancements associated with TLEs that are too dim to be detected by the camera.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JD036541
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number10
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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