NOx from lightning 2. Constraints from the global atmospheric electric circuit

Colin Price*, Joyce Penner, Michael Prather

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The global atmospheric electric circuit can be used to constrain the total amount of NOx produced by lightning (LNOx). Since the global atmospheric electric circuit is regulated by global thunderstorm activity and, more specifically, global lightning currents, we use the global electric circuit to quantify and place limits on the total amount of energy available from lightning. Using a production rate of 10 × 1016 molecules NO/J, we have calculated the global LNOx production on monthly, annual, and interannual timescales from 1983 to 1991. The 8-year mean production rate is found to be 13.2 Tg N/yr and agrees with the independent estimate derived in part 1 of this study (12.2 Tg N/yr), which is based on lightning physics and global lightning distributions. After considering the various uncertainties in these calculations, we conclude that the annual production rate of NOx from lightning cannot be less than 5 nor more than 25 Tg N/yr.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5943-5951
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 20 Mar 1997

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