Simultaneous radio and satellite optical measurements of high-altitude sprite current and lightning continuing current

Steven A. Cummer, Harald U. Frey, Stephen B. Mende, Rue Ron Hsu, Han Tzong Su, Alfred B. Chen, Hiroshi Fukunishi, Yukihiro Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


We report coordinated measurements of lightning and resulting sprites using ground-level magnetic field sensors (<0.1 Hz to 30 kHz bandwidth) and the ISUAL instrument on the FORMOSAT-2 satellite. These measurements demonstrate two distinct elements of the connection between the radio and optical emissions. First, the quasi-static magnetic field signature is tightly correlated with the low-altitude optical emissions from the lightning flash, indicating that this radio signature is produced by continuing lightning current. Second, in two events with strong postretum stroke extremely low frequency (ELF) magnetic pulses, the optical emissions demonstrate that there are no observable intensifications of low-altitude optical emissions associated with those pulses. If they were produced by a lightning process, such as an M-component, the connection between optical emissions and current seen in the return stroke and the continuing current suggests they should be visible. However, as has been observed previously, the bright, high-altitude optical emissions associated with the sprite are simultaneous with the ELF pulse. This is strong evidence that these ELF pulses originate in high-altitude electric current in the sprite itself and are not produced by a low-altitude lightning process.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA10315
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Oct 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Simultaneous radio and satellite optical measurements of high-altitude sprite current and lightning continuing current'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this