Observation of local and conjugate ionospheric perturbations from individual oceanic lightning flashes

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Abstract

Very low frequency (VLF) remote sensing observations of multifaceted local and conjugate ionospheric perturbations from geographically identified and well-characterized oceanic lightning discharges are presented for the first time. Lightning-induced electron precipitation (LEP) events are shown to produce disturbances first in the conjugate hemisphere and subsequently in the hemisphere of the causative lightning discharge in agreement with theoretical predictions. A rough threshold peak current of ∼100 kA is identified for lightning discharges to generate LEP events for the geomagnetic conditions present during observations. The occurrence of early VLF events and the subsequent duration of their recovery do not seem to fit any simple metric of lightning discharge peak current or proximity to great circle path. Knowledge of the full spectral density of the lightning electromagnetic pulse, not just its peak current, and the subionospheric mode structure are likely necessary to determine if a specific lightning discharge will generate an early VLF perturbation.

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