Geophysical Research Letters

Models of ionospheric VLF absorption of powerful ground based transmitters



[1] Ground based Very Low Frequency (VLF, 3–30 kHz) radio transmitters play a role in precipitation of energetic Van Allen electrons. Initial analyses of the contribution of VLF transmitters to radiation belt losses were based on early models of trans-ionospheric propagation known as the Helliwell absorption curves, but some recent studies have found that the model overestimates (by 20–100 dB) the VLF energy reaching the magnetosphere. It was subsequently suggested that conversion of wave energy into electrostatic modes may be responsible for the error. We utilize a newly available extensive record of VLF transmitter energy reaching the magnetosphere, taken from the DEMETER satellite, and perform a direct comparison with a sophisticated full wave model of trans-ionospheric propagation. Although the model does not include the effect of ionospheric irregularities, it correctly predicts the average total power injected into the magnetosphere within several dB. The results, particularly at nighttime, appear to be robust against the variability of the ionospheric electron density. We conclude that the global effect of irregularity scattering on whistler mode conversion to quasi-electrostatic may be no larger than 6 dB.