Radiation belt electron precipitation fluxes associated with lightning

In this study we consider the dependence of precipitation fluxes arising from whistler-induced radiation belt losses on the strength of the associated lightning's return stroke current. As a result of this work, it will be possible to use lightning activity data sets to estimate globally induced precipitation flux rates and thus determine the lightning-induced effect on the radiation belts more accurately. Four study days were selected, during which a high proportion of the lightning activity occurring near the east coast of North America produced observable Trimpi effects on VLF transmitter signals propagating in the region of the Antarctic Peninsula (similar toL = 2-2.5). The lack of lightning in Antarctica gives this location a unique advantage for this study. The functional dependence of the relative scattered field amplitude with the return stroke peak current of the lightning discharge suggests that during these events diffusion conditions are occurring near the precipitating radiation belt particles loss cone due to strong whistler wave fields, probably caused by ducted signals. The range of observed Trimpi scatter amplitude of -10 to -35 dB was produced by precipitation bursts with energy fluxes estimated to range over 6.5-0.4 x 10(-3) ergs cm(-2) s(-1). The largest fluxes were found to be driven by lightning currents of about 250 kA, while the smallest detectable fluxes relate to lightning currents of 70 kA. Although 3 of the 4 study days showed a high degree of consistency between the levels of lightning return stroke peak current required to produce any given perturbation scatter amplitude value, conditions were significantly different on 23 April 1994. On this day, observed Trimpi signatures were 6-7 dB greater for any given lightning intensity than on the other study days. These events are consistent with a significantly harder radiation belt precipitation spectra, probably caused by geomagnetic storm-time acceleration processes of radiation belt electrons.


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Authors: Clilverd, M.A. ORCIDORCID record for M.A. Clilverd, Rodger, C.J., Nunn, D.

On this site: Mark Clilverd
1 December, 2004
Journal of Geophysical Research / 109
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