Measurements of atmospheric electricity aloft

K.A. Nicoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (SciVal)


Measurements of the electrical characteristics of the atmosphere above the surface have been made for over 200 years, from a variety of different platforms, including kites, balloons, rockets and aircraft. From these measurements, a great deal of information about the electrical characteristics of the atmosphere has been gained, assisting our understanding of the global atmospheric electric circuit, thunderstorm electrification and lightning generation mechanisms, discovery of transient luminous events above thunderstorms, and many other electrical phenomena. This paper surveys the history of atmospheric electrical measurements aloft, from the earliest manned balloon ascents to current day observations with free balloons and aircraft. Measurements of atmospheric electrical parameters in a range of meteorological conditions are described, including clear air conditions, polluted conditions, non-thunderstorm clouds, and thunderstorm clouds, spanning a range of atmospheric conditions, from fair weather, to the most electrically active.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)991-1057
Number of pages67
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number5
Early online date30 Mar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2012


  • Balloon measurements Aircraft measurements Thunderstorms Airborne measurements


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