Fair Weather Atmospheric Electricity

Updated 2003-06-19

The atmosphere carries a continuous electric current and , even during fair weather, there is a strong electrostatic electric field, up to 200 volts per meter, close to the ground. This electric current is thought to be due to the accumulated effect of thousands of thunderstorms, mostly in the tropical regions of the Earth. These storms feed a current from the ground up to the ionosphere, a highly conducting layer in the atmosphere which lies above about 70 km altitude. The current spreads out around the globe through this layer and returns to Earth through the atmosphere as the 'fair weather current' outside the thunderstorm areas. Objective: Investigation of the part of the Earths global electrical circuit: fair weather current and its interaction with geomagnetic phenomena, such as, for example, a magnetic substorms. We use the data of the air-earth current measured by a long wire antenna installed in Kiruna/Esrange, Sweden. In July 1999 we have installed a new portable antenna at a distance of about 30 km from the old one. This antenna has a length of nearly 50 m, and we are recording the near ground vertical current with a time resolution of 10 seconds. The data from both instruments will be analysed together - for comparison and possible separation of the meteorological effects.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project

Time frame

Project time span
1999 - 2020
Data collection
1998 - 2003
Data processing
1998 - 1999
Data reporting
1998 - 1999

Contact information

Contact person
Evgenia Belova
Swedish Institute of Space Physics Box 812 981 28 Kiruna Sweden
+46 980 79112
+46 980 79050

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Media sampled/studied/modelled


Regions studied

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
If no (or only part of data are reported to a TDC), where and how are (other) data stored?
Local AEC DATA ARCHIVE Data can be provided on request after an agreement on the use of the data has been made.
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Observations of the fair weather current using a long wire antenna (100 m long) situated near the top of a hill at Esrange. A second antenna will be placed at a nearby site during 1999 and comparisons are also made with similar measurements from Sodankylä in Finland. It is important to have measurements from several sites in order to separate local (meteorological) variations from true fair-weather global effects. Vertical profiles of atmospheric electric field are also collected in the SKERRIES programme.

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
Other institutes involved in the project

Esrange (European sounding rocket launching range)

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