National Academies Press: OpenBook

The Earth's Electrical Environment (1986)


« Previous: References
Suggested Citation:"INTRODUCTION." National Research Council. 1986. The Earth's Electrical Environment. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/898.
Page 166

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

ELECTRICAL STRUCTURE FROM 0 TO 30 KILOMETERS 166 12 Electrical Structure from 0 to 30 Kilometers Wolfgang Gringel Universität Tübingen James M. Rosen and David J. Hofmann University of Wyoming INTRODUCTION This chapter deals with the electrical structure of the lower atmosphere, i.e., the troposphere and the portion of the stratosphere below about 30 km. Here the principal observing platforms (not including surface measurements) are balloons. Their limited height range, rather than other physical considerations, is the main reason that the electrical structure above 30 km will be discussed separately in the following chapter. For better understanding of the electrical phenomena taking place in the lower atmosphere and the coupling between them, the concept of a "global circuit" will be briefly touched on—a complete discussion is presented by Roble and Tzur (Chapter 15, this volume). The discovery of the atmospheric conductivity raised a question concerning the origin of the electric fields and the electric currents that were known to exist and flow continuously in the atmosphere. According to the classical picture of the global circuit (Dolezalek, 1972), the total effect of all thunderstorms acting at the same time can be regarded as the global generator, which charges the ionosphere to several hundred kilovolts with respect to the Earth's surface. This potential difference drives the air-earth current downward from the ionosphere to the ground in the nonthunderstorm areas through the conductive atmosphere. The value of this air-earth current density varies according to the ionospheric potential and the total columnar resistance between ionosphere and ground. Finally the local atmospheric electric field must be consistent with this current flowing through a resistive medium, i.e., the atmosphere. In addition to the global generator there also exist effective local generators such as precipitation, convection currents (charges moved by other than electrical forces), and blowing snow or dust. The latter create their own local current circuits and electric fields superimposed on parts of the global circuit. Generators can be regarded as local generators (Dolezalek, 1972) if the resistance from the upper terminal to the ionosphere is much greater than the resistance from that point to the Earth's surface along the shortest possible path and with the consequence that almost no current flows to the ionosphere from this generator. In the following sections we discuss initially the sources of ionization in the lower atmosphere together with solar- induced and latitudinal variations. In the next section a brief review of aerosol distributions in the troposphere and lower stratosphere is presented. Variations following major volcanic eruptions are emphasized. Atmospheric conductivity, small ion concentrations, and ion-mobility measurements are the subject of the third section. Here the influence that solar activity or aerosols have on the conductivity, and therefore on

The Earth's Electrical Environment Get This Book
Buy Paperback | $75.00
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

This latest addition to the Studies in Geophysics series explores in scientific detail the phenomenon of lightning, cloud, and thunderstorm electricity, and global and regional electrical processes. Consisting of 16 papers by outstanding experts in a number of fields, this volume compiles and reviews many recent advances in such research areas as meteorology, chemistry, electrical engineering, and physics and projects how new knowledge could be applied to benefit mankind.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!