Ionosphere and Upper Atmosphere
Relativistic runaway breakdown in low-frequency radio
Article first published online: 14 JAN 2010
Copyright 2010 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics (1978–2012)
Volume 115, Issue A1, January 2010
How to Cite
2010), Relativistic runaway breakdown in low-frequency radio, J. Geophys. Res., 115, A00E09, doi:10.1029/2009JA014468., , , , , , and (
- Issue published online: 14 JAN 2010
- Article first published online: 14 JAN 2010
- Manuscript Accepted: 3 SEP 2009
- Manuscript Revised: 23 JUL 2009
- Manuscript Received: 18 MAY 2009
- runaway breakdown;
- low-frequency radio;
 The electromagnetic radiation emitted by an electron avalanche beam resulting from relativistic runaway breakdown within the Earth's atmosphere is investigated. It is found from theoretical modeling with a computer simulation that the electron beam emits electromagnetic radiation which is characterized by consecutive broadband pulses in the low-frequency radio range from ∼10 to 300 kHz at a distance of ∼800 km. Experimental evidence for the existence of consecutive broadband pulses is provided by low-frequency radio observations of sprite-producing lightning discharges at a distance of ∼550 km. The measured broadband pulses occur ∼4–9 ms after the sprite-producing lightning discharge, they exhibit electromagnetic radiation which mainly spans the frequency range from ∼50 to 350 kHz, and they exhibit complex waveforms without the typical ionospheric reflection of the first hop sky wave. Two consecutive pulses occur ∼4.5 ms and ∼3 ms after the causative lightning discharge and coincide with the sprite luminosity. It is concluded that relativistic runaway breakdown within the Earth's atmosphere can emit broadband electromagnetic pulses and possibly generates sprites. The source location of the broadband pulses can be determined with an interferometric network of wideband low-frequency radio receivers to lend further experimental support to the relativistic runaway breakdown theory.