Electric Field Measurements in the Antarctic Reveal Patterns Related to the El Niño—Southern Oscillation

Nikolay N. Slyunyaev*, Alexander V. Frank-Kamenetsky, Nikolay V. Ilin, Fedor G. Sarafanov, Maria V. Shatalina, Evgeny A. Mareev, Colin G. Price

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electric field measurements at Vostok station in Antarctica reveal that the El Niño—Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has a statistically significant effect on the global electric circuit, as earlier predicted by simulations. Analysis of 10 October-February periods during 2006–2016 indicates that the shape of the diurnal variation of the surface electric field is significantly different for El Niño and La Niña years, with an especially pronounced deviation during the super El Niño of 2015/16. During strong El Niños the potential gradient relative to the diurnal mean is generally higher than usual around 8:00–14:00 UTC and lower than usual around 16:00–0:00 UTC; La Niñas are characterized by the opposite behavior. Simulations with the Weather Research and Forecasting model imply that the observed patterns are the result of changes in the global distribution of electrified clouds over the Pacific Ocean, Maritime Continent, and South America during ENSO events.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL095389
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - 16 Nov 2021


  • ENSO
  • global electric circuit
  • ionospheric potential
  • measurements
  • modeling
  • potential gradient


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