Atmospheric noise

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CCIR 322 atmospheric noise relationship. The standard has tables and maps that determine the noise figure at 1 MHz according to the season and the time of day. This graph converts that noise figure to other frequencies. Notice that the plotted lines are spaced in 10 dB increments at 1 MHz. Atmosphericnoise.PNG
CCIR 322 atmospheric noise relationship. The standard has tables and maps that determine the noise figure at 1 MHz according to the season and the time of day. This graph converts that noise figure to other frequencies. Notice that the plotted lines are spaced in 10 dB increments at 1 MHz.

Atmospheric noise is radio noise caused by natural atmospheric processes, primarily lightning discharges in thunderstorms. On a worldwide scale, there are about 40 lightning flashes per second  ≈3.5 million lightning discharges per day. [1]



Replica of Jansky's radio telescope, now at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
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38deg25'54''N 79deg48'59''W / 38.431659degN 79.816253degW / 38.431659; -79.816253 Janksy Karl radio telescope.jpg
Replica of Jansky's radio telescope, now at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. 38°25′54″N79°48′59″W / 38.431659°N 79.816253°W / 38.431659; -79.816253

In 1925, AT&T Bell Laboratories started investigating the sources of noise in its transatlantic radio telephone service. [2]

Karl Jansky, a 22-year-old researcher, undertook the task. By 1930, a radio antenna for a wavelength of 14.6 meters was constructed in Holmdel, NJ, to measure the noise in all directions. Jansky recognized three sources of radio noise. [3] The first (and strongest) source was local thunderstorms. The second source was weaker noise from more distant thunderstorms. The third source was a still weaker hiss that turned out to be galactic noise from the center of the Milky Way. Jansky's research made him the father of radio astronomy. [4]

In early 1950s, a mathematical model of the impact of lightning and thunderstorms on broadcasting was published by S. V. C. Aiya [5]


Atmospheric noise is radio noise caused by natural atmospheric processes, primarily lightning discharges in thunderstorms. It is mainly caused by cloud-to-ground flashes as the current is much stronger than that of cloud-to-cloud flashes.[ citation needed ] On a worldwide scale, 3.5 million lightning flashes occur daily. This are about 40 lightning flashes per second. [1]

The sum of all these lightning flashes results in atmospheric noise. It can be observed, [6] with a radio receiver, in the form of a combination of white noise (coming from distant thunderstorms) and impulse noise (coming from a near thunderstorm). The power-sum varies with seasons and nearness of thunderstorm centers.

Although lightning has a broad-spectrum emission, its noise power increases with decreasing frequency. Therefore, at very low frequency and low frequency, atmospheric noise often dominates, while at high frequency, man-made noise dominates in urban areas.


From 1960s to 1980s, a worldwide effort was made to measure the atmospheric noise and variations. Results have been documented in CCIR Report 322. [7] [8] CCIR 322 provided seasonal world maps showing the expected values of the atmospheric noise figure Fa at 1 MHz during four hour blocks of the day. Another set of charts relates the Fa at 1 MHz to other frequencies. CCIR Report 322 has been superseded by ITU P.372 [9] publication.

Random number generation

Atmospheric noise and variation is also used to generate high quality random numbers. [10] Random numbers have interesting applications in the security domain. [11]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Annual Lightning Flash Rate Map". Science On a Sphere. NOAA. Archived from the original on 24 March 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  2. Singh 2005 , pp. 402–408
  3. Singh 2005 , pp. 404–405
  4. Singh 2005 , p. 406
  5. V, S. (December 1956). "Noise Radiation from Tropical Thunderstorms in the Standard Broadcast Band". Nature. pp. 1249–1249. doi:10.1038/1781249a0 . Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  6. Sample of atmospheric noise "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-12-18. Retrieved 2008-03-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. International Radio Consultative Committee (1968), Characteristics and Applications of Atmospheric Radio Noise Data, Geneva: International Telecommunications Union, CCIR Report 322-3; first CCIR Report 322 was 1963; revised; second is ISBN   92-61-01741-X.
  8. Lawrence, D. C. (June 1995), CCIR Report 322 Noise Variation Parameters, San Diego, CA: Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center, RDT&E Division, NRaD Technical Document 2813, archived from the original on 2009-11-13; also DTIC Archived 2015-09-25 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ITU, Recommendation P.372: Radio Noise
  10. Haahr, Mads, Introduction to Randomness and Random Numbers,, retrieved November 14, 2011, self-published.

Related Research Articles

Cosmic noise, also known as galactic radio noise, is not actually sound, but a physical phenomenon derived from outside of the Earth's atmosphere. It can be detected through a radio receiver, which is an electronic device that receives radio waves and converts the information given by them to a audible form. Its characteristics are comparable to those of thermal noise. Cosmic noise occurs at frequencies above about 15 MHz when highly directional antennas are pointed toward the sun or other regions of the sky, such as the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Celestial objects like quasars, which are super dense objects far from Earth, emit electromagnetic waves in their full spectrum, including radio waves. The fall of a meteorite can also be heard through a radio receiver; the falling object burns from friction with the Earth's atmosphere, ionizing surrounding gases and producing radio waves. Cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) from outer space is also a form of cosmic noise. CMBR is thought to be a relic of the Big Bang, and pervades the space almost homogeneously over the entire celestial sphere. The bandwidth of the CMBR is wide, though the peak is in the microwave range.

Lightning Weather phenomenon involving electrostatic discharge

Lightning is a naturally occurring electrostatic discharge during which two electrically charged regions, both in the atmosphere or with one on the ground, temporarily equalize themselves, causing the instantaneous release of as much as one gigajoule of energy. This discharge may produce a wide range of electromagnetic radiation, from heat created by the rapid movement of electrons, to brilliant flashes of visible light in the form of black-body radiation. Lightning causes thunder, a sound from the shock wave which develops as gases in the vicinity of the discharge experience a sudden increase in pressure. Lightning occurs commonly during thunderstorms as well as other types of energetic weather systems, but volcanic lightning can also occur during volcanic eruptions.

Radio astronomy subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies

Radio astronomy is a subfield of astronomy that studies celestial objects at radio frequencies. The first detection of radio waves from an astronomical object was in 1932, when Karl Jansky at Bell Telephone Laboratories observed radiation coming from the Milky Way. Subsequent observations have identified a number of different sources of radio emission. These include stars and galaxies, as well as entirely new classes of objects, such as radio galaxies, quasars, pulsars, and masers. The discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation, regarded as evidence for the Big Bang theory, was made through radio astronomy.

Karl Guthe Jansky American astronomer

Karl Guthe Jansky was an American physicist and radio engineer who in August 1931 first discovered radio waves emanating from the Milky Way. He is considered one of the founding figures of radio astronomy.

Schumann resonances Global electromagnetic resonances, generated and excited by lightning discharges

The Schumann resonances (SR) are a set of spectrum peaks in the extremely low frequency (ELF) portion of the Earth's electromagnetic field spectrum. Schumann resonances are global electromagnetic resonances, generated and excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the Earth's surface and the ionosphere.

The radio spectrum is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum with frequencies from 30 Hz to 300 GHz. Electromagnetic waves in this frequency range, called radio waves, are widely used in modern technology, particularly in telecommunication. To prevent interference between different users, the generation and transmission of radio waves is strictly regulated by national laws, coordinated by an international body, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The 80-meter or 3.5 MHz band is a band of radio frequencies allocated for amateur radio use, from 3.5 to 4.0 MHz in IARU Region 2, and generally 3.5 to 3.8 or 3.9 MHz in Regions 1 and 3 respectively. The upper portion of the band, which is usually used for phone (voice), is sometimes referred to as 75 meters. In Europe, 75m is a shortwave broadcast band, with a number of national radio services operating between 3.9 and 4.0 MHz.

Atmospheric electricity Electricity in planetary atmospheres

Atmospheric electricity is the study of electrical charges in the Earth's atmosphere. The movement of charge between the Earth's surface, the atmosphere, and the ionosphere is known as the global atmospheric electrical circuit. Atmospheric electricity is an interdisciplinary topic with a long history, involving concepts from electrostatics, atmospheric physics, meteorology and Earth science.

Lightning strike

A lightning strike or lightning bolt is an electric discharge between the atmosphere and the ground. Most originate in a cumulonimbus cloud and terminate on the ground, called cloud-to-ground (CG) lightning. A less common type of strike, ground-to-cloud (GC) lightning, is upward-propagating lightning initiated from a tall grounded object and reaching into the clouds. About 69% of all lightning events worldwide are strikes between the atmosphere and earth-bound objects. Most are intracloud (IC) lightning and cloud-to-cloud (CC), where discharges only occur high in the atmosphere. Lightning strikes the average commercial aircraft at least once a year, but modern engineering and design means this is rarely a problem. The movement of aircraft through clouds can even cause lightning strikes.

ITU-R 468 noise weighting Noise measurement standard

ITU-R 468 is a standard relating to noise measurement, widely used when measuring noise in audio systems. The standard, now referred to as ITU-R BS.468-4, defines a weighting filter curve, together with a quasi-peak rectifier having special characteristics as defined by specified tone-burst tests. It is currently maintained by the International Telecommunications Union who took it over from the CCIR.

Amateur radio frequency allocation is done by national telecommunication authorities. Globally, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) oversees how much radio spectrum is set aside for amateur radio transmissions. Individual amateur stations are free to use any frequency within authorized frequency ranges; authorized bands may vary by the class of the station license.

Radio noise

In radio reception, radio noise is unwanted random radio frequency electrical signals, fluctuating voltages, always present in a radio receiver in addition to the desired radio signal. Radio noise near in frequency to the radio signal being received interferes with it in the receiver's circuits. Radio noise is a combination of natural electromagnetic atmospheric noise created by electrical processes in the atmosphere like lightning, manmade radio frequency interference (RFI) from other electrical devices picked up by the receiver's antenna, and thermal noise present in the receiver input circuits, caused by the random thermal motion of molecules.

Noise (electronics) Random fluctuation in an electrical signal

In electronics, noise is an unwanted disturbance in an electrical signal. Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly as it is produced by several different effects.

Audio noise measurement is a process carried out to assess the quality of audio equipment, such as the kind used in recording studios, broadcast engineering, and in-home high fidelity.

Lightning detection

A lightning detector is a device that detects lightning produced by thunderstorms. There are three primary types of detectors: ground-based systems using multiple antennas, mobile systems using a direction and a sense antenna in the same location, and space-based systems.

Upper-atmospheric lightning Rare transient luminous events that occurs over tops of thunder storms

Upper-atmospheric lightning or ionospheric lightning are terms sometimes used by researchers to refer to a family of short-lived electrical-breakdown phenomena that occur well above the altitudes of normal lightning and storm clouds. Upper-atmospheric lightning is believed to be electrically induced forms of luminous plasma. The preferred usage is transient luminous event (TLE), because the various types of electrical-discharge phenomena in the upper atmosphere lack several characteristics of the more familiar tropospheric lightning.

Radio atmospheric signal Broadband electromagnetic impulse

A radio atmospheric signal or sferic is a broadband electromagnetic impulse that occurs as a result of natural atmospheric lightning discharges. Sferics may propagate from their lightning source without major attenuation in the Earth–ionosphere waveguide, and can be received thousands of kilometres from their source. On a time-domain plot, a sferic may appear as a single high-amplitude spike in the time-domain data. On a spectrogram, a sferic appears as a vertical stripe that may extend from a few kHz to several tens of kHz, depending on atmospheric conditions.

Sprite (lightning) Electrical discharges above thunderstorm clouds

Sprites or red sprites are large-scale electric discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, or cumulonimbus, giving rise to a quite varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky. They are usually triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground.

Joseph Dwyer

Joseph R. Dwyer is an American physicist known for his lightning research. He is a Professor of Physics at the University of New Hampshire. Dwyer received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1994 and worked on cosmic-ray physics and gamma-ray astronomy as a research scientist at Columbia University and the University of Maryland before joining the faculty at the Florida Institute of Technology in 2000. After moving to Melbourne, Florida, Dwyer became interested in lightning physics and his research now focuses on high-energy radiation production from thunderstorms and lightning. In 2002, Dwyer and collaborators discovered that rocket-triggered lightning produced large quantities of x-rays, allowing for first the time detailed studies of an atmospheric phenomenon known as runaway breakdown. In 2014, Dwyer left the Florida Institute of Technology and joined the University of New Hampshire.

Distribution of lightning

The distribution of lightning, or the incidence of individual strikes, in any particular place is highly dependent on its location, climate, and time of year. Lightning does have an underlying spatial distribution. High quality lightning data has only recently become available, but the data indicates that lightning occurs on average 44±5 times every second over the entire Earth, making a total of about 1.4 billion flashes per year.