Atmospheric physics

Atmospheric physics aims at studying the atmosphere of planets with an emphasis on the Earth’s atmosphere. The corresponding work includes quantitative characterization of the physical properties of this region, understanding and interpretation of the processes there using the laws of physics, accommodation of the experiences in the complex system of nature as a whole, and seeking possibilities of utilization of the new information for the benefit of mankind.

Actual research in the institute focuses on two areas: electromagnetic (EM) phenomena occurring below ca. 100 km height in the Earth’s atmosphere with an emphasis put on phenomena related more closely to the so called global electric circuit, and the intake, mixing, and transport of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Specific topics are (1) parameters and variations of the quasi direct-current (DC) electric field between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere; (2) extremely low frequency (ELF, here 3-30 Hz) EM waves in the EM waveguide enclosed by the ground and the lower ionosphere: production (primarily by lightning), propagation, and Schumann resonance (SR, global EM resonances in the closed waveguide); (3) transient luminous events (TLE), e.g., red sprites, blue jets; and (4) near-surface sources, concentration, and transport of greenhouse gases.

These phenomena can be utilized both to characterize the electrical state of the near-Earth space and to study other environmental factors which are coupled to the changes of that state. This enables getting information indirectly on the solid Earth (e.g., earthquakes), on chemical and biological systems (e.g., on the composition of air or on the effects of environmental EM fields on the biosphere), on climate change (e.g., on the distribution, frequency, and intensity of thunderstorms), and on space weather events (e.g., on the intensity of ionizing radiation, impact of solar flares and geomagnetic storms). Regrading greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (e.g., CO2, CH4), the variation of emission rates from natural and human activity-related sources can be studied and the geographical distribution of emission intensity can be monitored using the data obtained from the corresponding observation network.

A significant fraction of research work in the institute is based on measurements managed locally. These include monitoring of SR and the near-surface DC electric field, as well as optical observations of TLEs in Central Europe. Established measurements of the concentration and near-surface flux of some greenhouse gases are also managed by our reseach institute.

Dr. József Bór (atmospheric electricity)
Dr. László Haszpra (greenhouse gases in the atmosphere)


The global electric circuit


Lightning and red sprites in the Earth’s atmosphere