pure and applied geophysics

, Volume 84, Issue 1, pp 118–138 | Cite as

The evidence for auroral effects on atmospheric electricity

  • Donald E. Olson


The possibility of atmospheric electrical effects due to the aurora has been considered by investigators since 1875. An unsatisfactory theoretical basis for an explanation of observed effects and the measurements of only a few of the related parameters for short periods of time has led to uncertainty in the matter. Nevertheless, since the IGY2), new discoveries related to the aurora portray an unusual complexity, and a wide range of energy input. When considered with recent discussions on atmospheric electrification some interesting interpretations of the observed effects are suggested. On the ground, large negative excursions of the atmospheric electric field (E) during fair weather, and above 100 mb3) peculiar increases in negative ion densities and variations in air-earth current density (I) all appear to be related to auroral activity. A difference in (I) measured simultaneously at geomagnetic latitudes 55° and 68°N which is greater than what one would expect from a difference in conductivity due to cosmic rays may also be due to the aurora. Several models of the observed effects will be considered: (1) the high influx of negative space charge, i.e. a precipitation of around 1014 elementary charges m−2 s−1; (2) the auroral bremsstrahlung flux acts as an atmospheric current generator; (3) plasma instability in the auroral electrojet; (4) a combination of (2) and (3). The infrequent observation of the auroral effects on atmospheric electricity is probably due to limitations in detecting an extreme local fluctuation in such a large-scale complex phenomenon.


Geomagnetic Latitude Plasma Instability Fair Weather Auroral Electrojet Atmospheric Electricity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald E. Olson
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. PhysicsUniversity of Minnesota, DuluthDuluthUSA

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