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Keywords:

  • sprites and VLF perturbations;
  • early/fast VLF events;
  • early/slow VLF events;
  • VLF sprites;
  • lightning discharges

[1] Observations on the night of 21 July 2003 of the ionospheric effects of a thunderstorm in central France are reported. From 0200 to 0315 UT, a camera system in the Pyrenees Mountains captured 28 sprites, triggered by +CG lightning as observed by the French METEORAGE lightning detection system. A narrowband VLF receiver located on Crete, at ∼2200 km southeast of the storm, observed subionospheric VLF signals from six ground-based transmitters. The amplitude of one of the VLF signals, originating at a transmitter located ∼150 km west of the storm and passing through the storm region, exhibited rapid onset perturbations occurring in a nearly one-to-one relationship with the optical sprites. These “early” VLF events are consistent with a process of narrow-angle forward scattering from a volume of enhanced ionization above the storm with lateral sizes larger than the VLF radio wavelength. The many +CG and −CG discharges that did not produce sprites were also found to not be associated with detectable VLF amplitude perturbations, even though some of these discharges reached relatively large peak currents. The rapid onsets of several of the sprite-related VLF perturbations were followed by relatively long onset durations, ranging from ∼0.5 to 2.5 s, indicating that these events were early but not “fast.” These “early/slow” events may suggest a slow process of ionization build-up in the lower ionosphere, following intense lightning discharges that also lead to sprites. A limited number of early VLF perturbation events were also associated with whistler-induced electron precipitation events, or classic Trimpi perturbations, undoubtedly produced by the precipitation of electrons due to whistler-mode waves injected into the magnetosphere by the same lightning flash that led to the production of the sprite.