Lightning‐associated precipitation of MeV electrons from the inner radiation belt Academic Article uri icon


  • Transient perturbations of subionospheric very low frequency (VLF) radiowave signals provide new evidence for lightning‐induced electron precipitation (LEP) events involving short (<1 s) bursts of >1 MeV electrons from the earth's inner radiation belt at L ≤1.8. The signal amplitude changes are attributed to increased absorption in the earth‐ionosphere waveguide and/or alterations of the waveguide mode structure due to localized secondary ionization enhancements produced in the nighttime lower ionosphere and the mesosphere by the precipitating electrons. The otherwise stably trapped electrons are believed to be scattered in pitch angle during cyclotron resonant interactions in the magnetosphere with the lightning‐generated whistler waves. That some precipitation bursts consist partly of MeV electrons is suggested by (i) confinement of the perturbed subionospheric signal path to low magnetic latitudes (L ≤1.8), for which corresponding electron energies for gyroresonance with typical whistler‐wave frequencies in the magnetosphere are >1 MeV, and (ii) the temporal signatures of the perturbation events, which often exhibit an unusually rapid initial recovery (time constant of τ <1 s) followed by further recovery at rates believed characteristic of less energetic events (τ ∼5–20 s). The latter is interpreted as a manifestation of the rapid variation with altitude of the effective loss rate for excess ionization over an exceptionally wide range of mesospheric altitudes (40–70 km) penetrated by the >1 MeV electrons. Copyright 1988 by the American Geophysical Union.

author list (cited authors)

  • Inan, U. S., Burgess, W. C., Wolf, T. G., Shater, D. C., & Orville, R. E.

citation count

  • 50

publication date

  • February 1988