Articles | Volume 13
Adv. Geosci., 13, 17–23, 2007
https://doi.org/10.5194/adgeo-13-17-2007
Adv. Geosci., 13, 17–23, 2007
https://doi.org/10.5194/adgeo-13-17-2007

  30 Jul 2007

30 Jul 2007

Multi-station synthesis of early twentieth century surface atmospheric electricity measurements for upper tropospheric properties

R. G. Harrison and A. J. Bennett R. G. Harrison and A. J. Bennett
  • Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, P.O. Box 243, Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6BB, UK

Abstract. The vertical columnar current density in the global atmospheric electrical circuit depends on the local columnar resistance. A simple model for the columnar resistance is suggested, which separates the local boundary layer component from the upper troposphere cosmic ray component, and calculates the boundary layer component from a surface measurement of air conductivity. This theory is shown to provide reasonable agreement with observations. One application of the simple columnar model theory is to provide a basis for the synthesis of surface atmospheric electrical measurements made simultaneously at several European sites. Assuming the ionospheric potential to be common above all the sites, the theoretical air-earth current density present in the absence of a boundary layer columnar resistance can be found by extrapolation. This is denoted the free troposphere limit air-earth current density, J0. Using early surface data from 1909 when no ionospheric potential data are available for corroboration, J0 is found to be ~6 pA m−2, although this is subject to uncertainties in the data and limitations in the theory. Later (1966–1971) European balloon and surface data give J0=2.4 pA m−2.