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  • Article
  • Open Access

Surface fair-weather potential gradient measurements from a small tropical island station Suva, Fiji

Earth, Planets and Space200961:BF03353181

  • Received: 18 December 2007
  • Accepted: 30 October 2008
  • Published:


Systematic analysis of the surface fair-weather potential gradient (PG) measured for 13 months (July 2005–July 2006) at 10 s resolution over a small tropical island station Suva (18.08°S, 178.45°E), Fiji is presented. Based on the solar radiation (>800 W m−2) and surface wind speed (<4.5 m s−1) conditions, 63 fair-weather days were selected. After sorting the data into a range of 0–1000 V m−1, the average PG was 139 V m−1. The measured fair-weather PG had a semi-diurnal structure, with a more pronounced peak at 0730 LT (1930 UT) and a reduced peak at 2200 LT (1000 UT). The time of occurrence of the morning peak and the noontime minima agreed well with the Carnegie curve. However, the variation about the global mean in the measured PG was 150% whereas for the Carnegie curve it was only 35%. The effects of the local meteorological parameters on the PG measurements were found to be small. On average, the PG during the dry season (May–October) was always greater than in the wet season (November–April). In contrast, analysis of regional (0–60°S and 100°E–160°W) lightning activity on fair-weather days showed a peak at 2000 LT and higher lightning activity during the wet season. These results indicate that the regional thunderstorm activity has no direct connection with the local fair-weather PG at the site.

Key words

  • Fair-weather potential gradient
  • oceanic region
  • DC global electrical circuit
  • lightning