AC and DC global electric circuit properties and the height profile of atmospheric conductivity

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Irina G. Kudintseva
Alexander P. Nickolaenko
Michael J. Rycroft
Anna Odzimek


An apparent discrepancy is pointed out - at all heights, and by up to an order of magnitude - between the height profiles of atmospheric conductivity derived at AC using ELF propagation studies, especially from information on Schumann resonance of the Earth-ionosphere cavity, and using a model of the DC global atmospheric electric circuit. This serious issue is resolved by creating a hybrid profile of these two mid-latitude profiles, the first of which refers to conditions by day and the second by night. This hybrid profile is thus a first order attempt to represent globally averaged conditions. Close to the Earth’s surface, where the resistance of the atmosphere is largest, the properties of the DC global model exert the greatest influence, whereas in the middle atmosphere, at heights between 40 and 100 km, full wave computations show that the AC results are the more crucial. The globally averaged hybrid profile presented here has some limitations, and the physical reasons for these are addressed. They are due to the presence of aerosol particles of ice and/or of meteoric material which reduce the ionospheric D-region conductivity by an order of magnitude over only ~2 km of height, thereby causing ledges of ionisation. In the context of the globally averaged profile, published observations of the ionospheric effects of the giant gamma-ray flare from SGR 1806-20 (a neutron star having an enormously large magnetic field) occurring at 21:30 U.T. on December 27, 2004, are briefly discussed.

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Kudintseva IG, Nickolaenko AP, Rycroft MJ, Odzimek A. AC and DC global electric circuit properties and the height profile of atmospheric conductivity. Ann. Geophys. [Internet]. 2016Nov.22 [cited 2021Oct.24];59(5):A0545. Available from:
Physics of the Atmosphere