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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 11, issue 2 | Copyright
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 667-673, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 24 Jan 2011

Research article | 24 Jan 2011

Experimental simulation of satellite observations of 100 kHz radio waves from relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds

M. Füllekrug1, C. Hanuise2, and M. Parrot2 M. Füllekrug et al.
  • 1University of Bath, Centre for Space and Atmospheric Research, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, UK
  • 2Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie de l'Environnement et de l'Espace, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Orléans, France

Abstract. Relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds emit 100 kHz radio waves which illuminate the Earth's atmosphere and near-Earth space. This contribution aims to clarify the physical processes which are relevant for the spatial spreading of the radio wave energy below and above the ionosphere and thereby enables an experimental simulation of satellite observations of 100 kHz radio waves from relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds. The simulation uses the DEMETER satellite which observes 100 kHz radio waves from fifty terrestrial Long Range Aid to Navigation (LORAN) transmitters. Their mean luminosity patch in the plasmasphere is a circular area with a radius of 300 km and a power density of 22 μW/Hz as observed at 660 km height above the ground. The luminosity patches exhibit a southward displacement of 450 km with respect to the locations of the LORAN transmitters. The displacement is reduced to 150 km when an upward propagation of the radio waves along the geomagnetic field line is assumed. This residual displacement indicates that the radio waves undergo 150 km sub-ionospheric propagation prior to entering a magnetospheric duct and escaping into near-Earth space. The residual displacement at low (L < 2.14) and high (L > 2.14) geomagnetic latitudes ranges from 100 km to 200 km which suggests that the smaller inclination of the geomagnetic field lines at low latitudes helps to trap the radio waves and to keep them in the magnetospheric duct. Diffuse luminosity areas are observed northward of the magnetic conjugate locations of LORAN transmitters at extremely low geomagnetic latitudes (L < 1.36) in Southeast Asia. This result suggests that the propagation along the geomagnetic field lines results in a spatial spreading of the radio wave energy over distances of 1 Mm. The summative assessment of the electric field intensities measured in space show that nadir observations of terrestrial 100 kHz radio waves, e.g., from relativistic electron beams above thunderclouds, are attenuated by at least 50 dB when taking into account a transionospheric attenuation of 40 dB.

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