Time domain waveform and azimuth variation of ionospherically reflected VLF/LF radio emissions from lightning

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Abstract

[1] The Earth's geomagnetic field can, in principle, cause significant magnetic-azimuth variations of the lower ionosphere's reflection of 2–150 kHz radio waves emitted by lightning. There has been little published work on this azimuth variation, either modeled or observational. We use broadband emissions from negative cloud-to-ground lightning strokes to study the azimuthal variations systematically. The data are from the Los Alamos Sferic Array, operating in the United States' southern Great Plains during 2005. We compare the observations to a model of lower-ionosphere reflection of radio waves. The model recapitulates the basic features of the time domain reflection waveforms rather well, except at the lowest frequencies. The model transfer function describing the vertical electric field at the receiver is symmetric about 90° magnetic and about 270° magnetic. Two noteworthy features of the azimuth variation are both predicted by the model, and seen in the data: First, at the lowest frequencies (<30 kHz) there is enhanced reflection for eastward propagation, relative to westward propagation. Second, at the higher frequencies (>50 kHz) there is an opposite enhancement, of the reflection for westward propagation, relative to eastward propagation. The westward enhancement at >50 kHz depends sensitively on range and is most evident in nighttime conditions, while the eastward enhancement at <30 kHz occurs at all ranges studied. Range-dependent frequency modulations of the transfer function are the least for magnetic northward propagation (duplicated by magnetic southward).

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