On the Use of VLF Narrowband Measurements to Study the Lower Ionosphere and the Mesosphere–Lower Thermosphere

Abstract

The ionospheric D-region (~60 km up to ~95 km) and the corresponding neutral atmosphere, often referred to as the mesosphere–lower thermosphere (MLT), are challenging and costly to probe in situ. Therefore, remote sensing techniques have been developed over the years. One of these is based on very low frequency (VLF, 3–30 kHz) electromagnetic waves generated by various natural and man-made sources. VLF waves propagate within the Earth–ionosphere waveguide and are extremely sensitive to perturbations occurring in the D-region along their propagation path. Hence, measurements of these signals serve as an inexpensive remote sensing technique for probing the lower ionosphere and the MLT region. This paper reviews the use of VLF narrowband (NB) signals (generated by man-made transmitters) in the study of the D-region and the MLT for over 90 years. The fields of research span time scales from microseconds to decadal variability and incorporate lightning-induced short-term perturbations; extraterrestrial radiation bursts; energetic particle precipitation events; solar eclipses; lower atmospheric waves penetrating into the D-region; sudden stratospheric warming events; the annual oscillation; the solar cycle; and, finally, the potential use of VLF NB measurements as an anthropogenic climate change monitoring technique.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the World Wide Lightning Location Network (http://wwlln.net), a collaboration among over 50 universities and institutions, for providing the lightning location data used in this paper. We thank Maayan Harel (http://www.maayanillustration.com/), for the design and illustration of Fig. 2.

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Silber, I., Price, C. On the Use of VLF Narrowband Measurements to Study the Lower Ionosphere and the Mesosphere–Lower Thermosphere. Surv Geophys 38, 407–441 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10712-016-9396-9

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Keywords

  • VLF
  • Narrowband measurements
  • D-region
  • Mesosphere–lower thermosphere
  • Ionosphere
  • Ground-based measurements
  • Remote sensing