Lightning contribution to overall whistler mode wave intensities in the plasmasphere

Abstract : Electromagnetic waves generated by lightning propagate into the plasmasphere as dispersed whistlers. They can therefore influence the overall wave intensity in space which, in turn, is important for dynamics of the Van Allen radiation belts. We analyze spacecraft measurements in low‐Earth orbit as well as in high altitude equatorial region, together with a ground‐based estimate of lightning activity. We accumulate wave intensities when the spacecraft are magnetically connected to thunderstorms and compare them with measurements obtained when thunderstorms are absent. We show that strong lightning activity substantially affects the wave intensity in a wide range of L‐shells and altitudes. The effect is observed mainly between 500 Hz and 4 kHz, but its frequency range strongly varies with L‐shell, extending up to 12 kHz for L lower than 3. The effect is stronger in the afternoon, evening, and night sectors, consistent with more lightning and easier wave propagation through the ionosphere. We analyze contribution of thunderstorms to the intensity of electromagnetic radiation at audible frequencies observed at altitudes between 600 and 32,000 km, where these waves can influence the Van Allen radiation belts. We use the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN) to obtain information about lightning locations and times. Based on that, a lightning activity level is assigned to individual electromagnetic wave measurements of two spacecraft missions: the Detection of Electro‐Magnetic Emissions Transmitted from Earthquake Regions (DEMETER) and the Van Allen Probes. Subsequently, we compare median wave intensities obtained at the times of high and low lightning activity. Their ratio reveals that the radio waves originating in strong lightning storms can significantly overpower all other natural waves in a wide range of frequencies and L‐shells. The strength of this effect substantially depends on the local time. Specifically, it is the best pronounced in the afternoon/evening/night sector and nearly absent in the morning/noon sector. This agrees with the local time dependence of both, lightning occurrence and the wave attenuation in the ionosphere. The observed lightning contribution mainly occurs at frequencies over 500 Hz and with a bandwidth decreasing from 12 to 4 kHz for L between 1.5 and 5
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J. Záhlava, F. Němec, O. Santolik, I. Kolmašová, G.B. Hospodarsky, et al.. Lightning contribution to overall whistler mode wave intensities in the plasmasphere. Geophysical Research Letters, American Geophysical Union, 2019, 46 (15), pp.8607-8616. ⟨10.1029/2019GL083918⟩. ⟨insu-02263541⟩

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