Philosophical Society of Washington

Coupling Between the Upper and Lower Atmospheres: The Electrical Connection

Richard Goldberg
Senior Scientist, Laboratory of Extra-Terrestrial Physics, Goddard Space Flight Center

2019th Meeting Abstract
Friday, December 03, 1993 at 8:15 PM


The Earth's atmosphere is thought to contain a global electric circuit with an electric current driven by the ever present array of thunderstorms scattered throughout the world. The classical model depicts this circuit to be self contained below the highly conductive ionosphere (below about 70 km), thereby shielding it from external effects such as solar disturbances and Earth magnetospheric storms. Conversely, correlative data have indicated that lower atmospheric electrical parameters do respond to solar and geomagnetic variability, which suggests that electrodynamic coupling processes between the regions must exist. Now mounting experimental and theoretical evidence requires reevaluation of the more traditional concepts. Cosmic rays, relativistic electrons and protons, and recently discovered upward lightning flashes fit into this scenario as strongly perturbing influences. This overview concentrates on the various competing interactions known to occur between the upper and lower atmospheric regions, in an attempt to establish their electrodynamic connection and influence.

About the Author:

Mr. Goldberg received a B.S. in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1957 and a Ph.D. in physics from Pennsylvania State University in 1963. He was awarded an NAS/NRC Postdoctoral Associateship at the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and is now a senior staff scientist there in the laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics. From 1989-1991, he served as Director for the Solar-Terrestrial Research Program at the National Science Foundation. He has been actively engaged in problems dealing with solar-terrestrial interactions, including studies of the electrodynamic and neutral states of the atmosphere and their response to extraterrestrial energy sources. To conduct this research, he has been Project Scientist for numerous international scientific rocket/balloon programs and principal investigator for more than 80 sounding rockets. He co-authored the book Sun, Weather, and Climate, edited the book Rocket Techniques in the Middle Atmosphere, and published more than 80 papers in scientific journals. He currently serves as North American editor for the Journal of Atmospheric and Terrestrial Physics. He is a member of Sigma Xi, Sigma Pi Sigma, and several professional societies.

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