Electrical measurements in the atmosphere and the ionosphere over an active thunderstorm: 2. Direct current electric fields and conductivity


  • R. H. Holzworth,

  • M. C. Kelley,

  • C. L. Siefring,

  • L. C. Hale,

  • J. D. Mitchell


On August 9, 1981, a series of three rockets were launched over an air mass thunderstorm off the eastern seaboard of Virginia while simultaneous stratospheric and ground-based electric field measurements were made. The conductivity was substantially lower at most altitudes than the conductivity profiles used by theoretical models. Direct current electric fields over 80 mV/m were measured as far away as 96 km from the storm in the stratosphere at 23 km altitude. No dc electric fields above 75 km altitude could be identified with the thunderstorm, in agreement with theory. However, vertical current densities over 120 pA/m² were seen well above the classical “electrosphere” (at 50 or 60 km). Frequent dc shifts in the electric field following lightning transients were seen by both balloon and rocket payloads. These dc shifts are clearly identifiable with either cloud-to-ground (increases) or intercloud (decreases) lightning flashes.