ELF transients associated with sprites and elves in eastern Mediterranean winter thunderstorms

Eran Greenberg, Colin Price, Yoav Yair, Michal Ganot, József Bór, Gabriella Sátori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the northern hemisphere winter of 2005-2006, transient luminous events (TLEs) known as 'sprites' and 'elves' were imaged over thunderstorm cells in the eastern Mediterranean. Simultaneously, extremely low frequency (ELF) data (ELF: 3-3000 Hz) were recorded at two observation stations in Israel and Hungary in order to qualify and quantify parameters of the parent lightning discharge associated with the transient optical emissions in the upper atmosphere. In this study, we found that for 87% (Israel) and 77% (Hungary) of optically observed TLEs an intense ELF transient event was recorded. These stations are located some 500 and 2100 km, respectively, from the region of the TLEs. All ELF transients that were associated with TLEs were caused by lightning discharges with positive polarity. Calculation of the charge moment change showed values between 600 and 2800 C km with a peak around 1000 C km. Additionally, the time delay between the +CG and ensuing sprite was 76±34 ms and it was displaced up to 50 km from its parent CG. One of our objectives in the present study was to characterize, based on the ELF radiation from lightning, the electromagnetic (EM) waveforms of the lightning discharges which generate TLEs in the time and frequency domains, and to compare them with other lightning discharges occurring in the same thunderstorm cell at approximately the same time, but which did not produce TLEs. The survey for a typical EM waveform showed no unique ELF signature for lightning discharges associated with either sprites or elves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1569-1586
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics
Issue number13
StatePublished - Sep 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation Grant #145/03. Construction, calibration and operation of the Israeli station were made possible by the help of Mr. Boris Starobinets, Dr. Michael Finkelstein and Mr. David Shtibelman. We also thank the Wise Astronomical Observatory for access to their site for the SR measurements in Israel.

Funding Information:
The contribution from Hungary was supported by OTKA Grant NI 61013 from the Hungarian Science Research Fund.


  • ELF
  • Lightning
  • Mediterranean thunderstorms
  • Schumann resonance
  • Sprites


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