Recent advances in global electric circuit coupling between the space environment and the troposphere

Michael J. Rycroft, Kerianne Nicoll, Karin L. Aplin, R. G. Harrison

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136 Citations (SciVal)


The global atmospheric electric circuit is driven by thunderstorms and electrified rain/shower clouds and is also influenced by energetic charged particles from space. The global circuit maintains the ionosphere as an equipotential at∼+250 kV with respect to the good conducting Earth (both land and oceans). Its "load" is the fair weather atmosphere and semi-fair weather atmosphere at large distances from the disturbed weather "generator" regions. The main solar-terrestrial (or space weather) influence on the global circuit arises from spatially and temporally varying fluxes of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) and energetic electrons precipitating from the magnetosphere. All components of the circuit exhibit much variability in both space and time. Global circuit variations between solar maximum and solar minimum are considered together with Forbush decrease and solar flare effects. The variability in ion concentration and vertical current flow are considered in terms of radiative effects in the troposphere, through infra-red absorption, and cloud effects, in particular possible cloud microphysical effects from charging at layer cloud edges. The paper identifies future research areas in relation to Task Group 4 of the Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES-II) programme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-211
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
Early online date7 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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