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High-Frequency Response of the Atmospheric Electric Potential Gradient Under Strong and Dry Boundary-Layer Convection


The spectral response of atmospheric electric potential gradient gives important information about phenomena affecting this gradient at characteristic time scales ranging from years (e.g., solar modulation) to fractions of a second (e.g., turbulence). While long-term time scales have been exhaustively explored, short-term scales have received less attention. At such frequencies, space-charge transport inside the planetary boundary layer becomes a sizeable contribution to the potential gradient variability. For the first time, co-located (Évora, Portugal) measurements of boundary-layer backscatter profiles and the 100-Hz potential gradient are reported. Five campaign days are analyzed, providing evidence for a relation between high-frequency response of the potential gradient and strong dry convection.

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  1. Potential gradient is related to the vertical component of the atmospheric electric field, \(E_{z}\), by the relation \({ PG} = -E_{z}\) to guarantee positive values for potential gradient in fair-weather conditions as defined by Chalmers (1967). The fair-weather days are selected for cloudiness <0.2, wind speed <5\(\hbox { m s}^{-1}\), and the absence of fog or precipitation.

  2. Inspection of the signal spectra at least up to \(\approx \)50 Hz is recommended and to do that it is necessary to measure at least \(\approx \)100 Hz.


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RC and HGS acknowledge the Renewable Energy Chair for grants attributed by this research facility. RC also acknowledges the FCT Scholarship SFRH/BD/116344/2016. This work is co-funded by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund, framed in COMPETE 2020 (Operational Programme Competitiveness and Internationalisation) through the ICT Project (UID/GEO/04683/2013) with Reference POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007690 and through the ALOP Project (ALT20-03-0145-FEDER-000004). Thanks are due to AERONET/PHOTONS and RIMA networks for the scientific and technical support. CIMEL calibration was performed at the AERONET-EUROPE GOA calibration centre, supported by ACTRIS under Agreement No. 654109 (H2020-INFRAIA-2014-2015). Gratitude are also given to the TOPROF (ES-1303) and ELECTRONET (CA15211) COST-Actions. Dr. John Chubb is honoured here for his overwhelming contribution to atmospheric electricity. More than a scientist, he was an exceptional person and friend, and he will be missed. A final acknowledgement is given to Giles Harrison and Keri Nicoll for discussions related to the present study.

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Correspondence to Hugo Gonçalves Silva.

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Conceição, R., Silva, H.G., Bennett, A. et al. High-Frequency Response of the Atmospheric Electric Potential Gradient Under Strong and Dry Boundary-Layer Convection. Boundary-Layer Meteorol 166, 69–81 (2018).

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