Energetics and geographic distribution of elve-producing discharges



The major types of transient luminous events (TLEs) are believed to be directly triggered by cloud-to-ground discharges. Intense lightning generally seems to have a higher production efficiency for TLEs, but this observation has not yet been statistically investigated. Two data sets, the upgraded World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) lightning stroke data and the Imager of Sprites and Upper Atmospheric Lightning (ISUAL) TLE data, were used to investigate the energetics and the geographic distribution of TLE-producing lightning. The global median energy of the strokes that produced the TLEs is at least an order of magnitude higher than the global median stroke energy for WWLLN lightning in the same data window. Furthermore, the energy distributions of the elve-producing strokes exhibit no oceanic and land disparity. These results reveal that the elves are indeed triggered by energetic lightning and the production efficiency of elves with respect to the stroke energy of the causative lightning was insensitive to the underlying landform. Analysis of the spatial correlation between the ISUAL elves and the WWLLN lightning reveals that the geographic distribution of the ISUAL elves agreed well with that for the most energetic 10% of the WWLLN lightning strokes, better than for total lighting. We also found that elve occurrence rates in the apparently reduced detection regions behind the Earth's limb may have been greatly underestimated, partially due to the failure in providing triggers to initiate ISUAL recording or the severity of atmospheric attenuation to the elve emissions that may have caused them to be undetected.