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Solar modulation in surface atmospheric electricity

Harrison, R. G. ORCID: and Usoskin, I. G. (2010) Solar modulation in surface atmospheric electricity. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 72 (2-3). pp. 176-182. ISSN 1364-6826

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.jastp.2009.11.006


The solar wind modulates the flux of galactic cosmic rays impinging on Earth inversely with solar activity. Cosmic ray ionisation is the major source of air’s electrical conductivity over the oceans and well above the continents. Differential solar modulation of the cosmic ray energy spectrum modifies the cosmic ray ionisation at different latitudes,varying the total atmospheric columnar conductance. This redistributes current flow in the global atmospheric electrical circuit, including the local vertical current density and the related surface potential gradient. Surface vertical current density and potential gradient measurements made independently at Lerwick Observatory,Shetland,from 1978 to 1985 are compared with modelled changes in cosmic ray ionisation arising from solar activity changes. Both the lower troposphere atmospheric electricity quantities are significantly increased at cosmic ray maximum(solar minimum),with a proportional change greater than that of the cosmic ray change.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:5906
Uncontrolled Keywords:Solar–terrestrial coupling; Cosmic rays; Solar variability; Layer cloud charging


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