Using the global electric circuit as an integrating framework to investigate climate change
Through localised thunderstorms and broader fair-weather effects, the global electric circuit is embedded within, and modulated by, the Earth’s climate system. In this essay you should discuss the potential relationship of climate change to the global electric circuit, both in terms of the drivers leading to modification of the global circuit, and the potential use of the global circuit as a natural monitoring system to detect change. Your essay will need to be well organised, structured and argued. It should include a description of the various components of the global electric circuit and how they are measured, a discussion of the expected modifications to the climate system and their impact on the global circuit, a prediction as to how the various methods by which the global circuit is monitored would be affected by climate change and a conclusion on how these effects would scale globally. Ideas and arguments should be fully referenced, and linked figures and diagrams would normally form part of the discussion.
Potential references to consider:
• Harrison R.G, M. Joshi, K. Pascoe, Inferring convective responses to El Niño with atmospheric
electricity measurements at Shetland Environ Res Lett 6 (2011) 044028
• Markson R. and Price C.:1999 Ionospheric potential as a proxy index for global temperature
Atmos Res 51, 309-314.
• Price C.:1993 Global surface temperatures and the atmospheric electrical circuit Geophys
Res Lett 20(13), 1363-1366.
• Price C.: 2000 Evidence for a link between global lightning activity and upper troposphere
water vapor Nature 406, 290-293.
• Williams E.R.:1992 The Schumann resonance: A global tropical thermometer Science 256,
• Williams E.R. :1994: Global circuit response to seasonal variations in global surface air
temperature Mon Weath Rev 122, 1917-1929
• Davis C.J. : 2005: Lightning-induced intensification of the ionospheric sporadic-E layer
• Rishbeth, H. : 1990: A greenhouse effect in the ionosphere? Planetary & Space Science, 38,
This essay has a maximum length of 10 pages, including references, T&L Office 2015 at 12:00 noon.
The assessment of the essay will consider:
• Presentation and structure of the discussion and use of appropriate figures (10%)
• Inclusion of relevant material (30%)
• appropriate and accurate use of scientific language and quantitative arguments (40%)
• Clear conclusions section summarising the main points from the essay (10%)
• Clear use of appropriate references for material presented (10%)