High spatial resolution correlation of AGILE TGFs and global lightning activity above the equatorial belt

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Abstract

[1] The AGILE satellite detects Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs) in the 0.35–100 MeV energy range using its Mini-Calorimeter (MCAL) instrument with an average detection rate of 10 TGFs/month. Thanks to its Low Earth Orbit with only 2.5 degree of inclination, AGILE guarantees an unprecedented exposure above the equator, where both lightning activity and TGF detection peak. Here we report the comparison between the AGILE TGFs detected between March 2009 and February 2010 and full climatology lightning worldwide distribution based on satellite optical observations from LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor) and OTD (Optical Transient Detector) instruments. This approach is complementary to the one-to-one TGF/lightning correlations by ground-based sferics measurements. Based on mono and bi-dimensional Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests, we show that the AGILE TGFs and time-averaged global lightning in the equatorial area are not drawn from the same distribution. However, we find significant regional differences in the degree of correlation as well as in the TGF/lightning ratio. In the case of south east Asia we find a 87% probability for the TGF and lightning being samples of the same distribution. This result supports the idea that the physical conditions at play in TGF generation can have strong geographical and climatological modulation. Based on the assumption that the observed range of TGF/flash ratio holds at all latitudes we can estimate a global rate of equation image ≃ 220 ÷ 570 TGFs per day. The observed TGF/flash geographical modulation as well as the TGF global rate estimate are in agreement with previous observations.

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