Low frequency electromagnetic radiation from sprite streamers

Jianqi Qin, Sebastien Celestin, Victor P. Pasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Sprites are mesospheric discharges that carry significant electrical currents and produce electromagnetic radiation observed typically in the extremely low (ELF) to ultra low (ULF) frequency bands. In this letter, we present the first theoretical estimates of the electromagnetic radiation produced by individual sprite streamers using simulation results from a plasma fluid model. It is demonstrated that the spectral content of the radiation produced by sprite streamers is a function of the air density N and the lightning-induced quasi-static ambient electric field E in the regions of space where the sprite streamers are propagating. We demonstrate that the exponential growth of the current in sprite streamers at 75 km would be preferentially associated with electromagnetic radiation in the frequency range from 0 and up to ∼3 kHz, whereas the growth of the streamer current at 40 km could produce radiation with frequencies up to ∼300 kHz, consistently with the scaling of atmospheric air density. We further conjecture that the periodic branching of streamers may lead to a radiation spectrum enhancement in the very low (VLF) to low frequency (LF) range.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL22803
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 28 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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