Air-earth conduction current

From Glossary of Meteorology

air–earth conduction current

(Also called fair-weather current.) That part of the air–earth current contributed by the electrical conduction of the atmosphere itself.

It is represented as a downward current in storm-free regions all over the world. The conduction current is the largest portion of the air–earth current, far outweighing the contributions made by the precipitation current and convection current, which are zero in storm-free regions. Its magnitude is approximately 3 × 10-12 amperes (A) m-2, or about 1800 A for the entire earth. Such observations of the vertical variation of the conduction current as have been made indicate that it is approximately uniform throughout the depth of the troposphere, a condition that is consistent with the generally accepted view that the conduction current flows from a positively charged conducting region in the lower ionosphere downward to the negatively charged earth. Only in areas of temporarily disturbed weather does the conduction current become replaced by reverse flow. Accumulating evidence points to the conclusion that the conduction current continues to exist only because of the action of thunderstorms scattered at all times over the earth, which supply the positive charge to the upper atmosphere and negative charge to the earth.
See supply current.

Gish, O. H. 1951. Compendium of Meteorology. p. 113.

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