16 Replies Latest reply on Jan 13, 2021 1:23 PM by DAB

# What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi all,

I am interested in measuring the changes in electric field strength as clouds or just air passes over my location.  I got the idea from a Hackaday post where some researchers were using open air capacitors to measure the electric field differences between them.  They used the information to control musical tones, but I want to see if I can see the effect in free space.

My first thought was to set up a metal plate about 1 foot square and form a capacitor with an insulator and a second metal plate connected to ground.  After that I am thinking that I can just wrap wire around the capacitor lead going to ground and measure the changes in current that flow through the wire in response to the changes of the electric field in the atmosphere.

Any thoughts about my approach and or alternatives would be welcomed.

Thanks,

DAB

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi DAB,

To measure the electric field inside the cloud, you have to put your probe inside the cloud.

Benjamin Franklin tried this using a kite.

To measure the electric activity around your house, a simple whip antenna, like a car antenna will do.

During a thunderstorm you can mesure DC Voltages in excess of 10 kilovolt. When the lightning strikes, the polarity of the high voltage sometimes will reverse.

Another way to detect electric activity is lo listen to a long wave radiostation. Electric discharges in the atmosphere will cause cracking sounds in the reception. Unfortunately the interference from computers and switched mode poweresupplies make the reception of long wave radio impossible in some areas.

2 of 2 people found this helpful
• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Actually, I was more interested in measuring the ground effect of the electric charge in clouds.  As the charge goes over the ground, the opposite charge swells up towards it to equal the force.  That is why I wanted to set up a plate near the ground, so I could measure the ground charge trying to rise to equal the cloud charge.

Do you happen to know how fast the charge changes and over what aerial distance?  I know the DC voltages are huge, but I am curious about the AC voltages generated at low frequency.

Thanks,

DAB

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

The AC voltages are also huge. My own experiences are about radio receiving  equipment and protection  against electrical fields.

Radio receiving  equipment is often damaged during a thunderstorm. Not by a direct hit, but by the electrical fields.

I made measurements using a moving coil high voltage meter. During a thunderstorm I measured negative voltages in excess of 10 kilovolt. During the lightening, the polarity of the high voltage changes fast, then returns slowly to the original polarity.

The DC voltages are really high, but can be shorted with an inductor or even a resistor.

If a capacitor is connected between the antenna and the input transistor of a receiver, the input transistor can be damaged by the electrical field. Even if the DC voltage is shorted by an inductor.

The best way to protect the receiver input is to use a RF-transformer between the antenna and the receiver input. Additional protection can be provided using surge arrestors at the antenna side and protection diodes at the receiver side.

I think the best way to measure the fields is using a compensated divider. With a compensated divider I mean both a capacitive and a resistive divider, as is used in an oscilloscope probe.

With a Tektronics model  P6015A High Voltage probe you can measure continuous voltages to 20 kilovolt and AC voltages to 40 kilovolt peak This probe loads your detector with 100 megaohm and 3 picofarad This probe can be used to measure frequencies up to 75 MHz

It might be interesting to measure with the square foot detector and also with two long wires, one in north south direction and one in east west direction. The north-south wire will average differences between north and south. The east-west wire will average differences between east and west.

This way it might be possible to measure shape and movement of the fields.

The DC voltage on the detector will be caused by the electrical field, by the wind and by electrically charged raindrops. The AC voltage only by the electrical field. The detector will also receive radio-signals.

2 of 2 people found this helpful
• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Thanks,

That is the information I needed.  You are also right about being able to capture the electric charge movement with multiple sensors.  That was going to be my next project after I experiment with a single sensor.  I will try to keep you all appraised as my project moves forward.

DAB

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Usually for measuring the electric field due to clouds, people use a Field Mill (e.g. http://www.precisionstrobe.com/jc/fieldmill/fieldmill.html )

Chris

3 of 3 people found this helpful
• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi Chris,

The web site was perfect, I look forward to using the information for my project.

Thanks,

DAB

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

DAB,

Hi, I had the exact same question as you. I was wondering if you had followed up on measuring atmospheric current and how it went?

Thanks!

Les

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi Les,

I have gone so far as to build a prototype sensor and I am working on establishing a design for an array sensor.

Progress has been slow because I made a very interesting discovery about sub-atomic particle interactions due to electrostatic charges interacting in the atmosphere

.

That insight has led me to develop a potential solution to Einstiens Unified Field Theory, which I am currently verifying.

So far, the initial idea has been proven to make it possible to eliminate all probability equations from quantum mechanics and it creates a simple explanation for all matter and energy in the universe within the known four dimensions of normal space.

If the idea continues to be verified with the mathmatics, then I should be able to publish my proof late this year.

Its conclusion should enable progress towards understanding the true relationship between matter and energy.

It will also show that the so called "dark matter and energy" is the same as known matter and energy.

So I hope you can understand my lack of progress on the cloud charge idea.

Thanks

DAB

2 of 2 people found this helpful
• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi DAB,

I am looking into ways of measuring atmospheric electric field around the time of storm activity.

Electric Field Mills seems to be the most popular method but i am looking into other alternatives... Your work looks interesting

Glad to see you have developed your own idea of measuring electric field. Have you continued on that work?

Thanks...

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi Rosalie,

Yes, I am still working on the idea, but I got side tracked with a possible solution to Einstein's Unified Field Theory.

I have used the new theory to document how and why Lightning Sprites work.

I am currently redefining the Periodic table as the current one was defined in 1857 and I have a new view on how the various elements are made.

That also means that I have a new stellar fusion process that is not going to make people very happy.  It turns out that the experiments over the last 50 years are correct.  You cannot reach breakeven energy output using nuclear fusion.

The fusion process converts kinetic energy into potential energy.  Only nuclear fission can release that stored energy.

Anyway, I would like to hear what you plan to do with electric field measurements.  I might have some insight on how you can proceed.

DAB

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Periodic table why change? I just had to learn Pluto is NOT a planet and Yugoslavia is many new countries!

Clem

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Well Clem I sympathize, but I have found that the current atomic model used in the Periodic Table is incorrect.

The atomic nucleus is really a single fused sphere for stable atoms and there are no electrons orbiting the nucleus.

Instead, there is a single layer of captured photons that form what we called the electron cloud.

Irregularly shaped nuclei are what causes atoms to be radioactive.

The current stellar fusion model is also incorrect.

I will be clarifying how a star really conducts nuclear fusion and how each series of elements progress through the fusion cycle.

Most of what you have been told about these processes is incorrect.

DAB

1 of 1 people found this helpful
• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

I have been thinking about this recently in relation to the droughts we have been having in California. Could fair weather currents come from radiation in the Van Allen belts around the Earth raining down positive charges on preferred areas? During the worst of the drought of 2014, the air was absolutely alive with electricity. There were static electrical shocks at every turn. There was a persistent North wind, and dryness like I have never seen. We had a stint of extremely dry weather where the huminities went down to below 5%. All the cars started having problems starting. The low humidities sucked all the water out of all the car batteries. I had 3 vehicals not start because the batteries were low on water. Neighbors had the same problems with their cars. The batteries would dry up a few weeks later. Has anybody looked at the effect of electric charge has on evaporation or condensation? Right now it's getting very much like it was in 2014. It's very static electrified right now, and there's no rain in sight.

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hi James,

Dry air creates areas of greater charge potential difference. In your case, the drought increases dry air and that leads to more lightning and more shocks as every surface can accumulate charge until something or someone creates a circuit.

As for the batteries, unless you have a really good seal, the dry air will absorb any moisture it can find. The actual charge has little to do with those issues. That said, dry soil provides many small charged particles around which moisture will condensate and eventually cause rain, but that moisture seldom falls where the particles originate.

California suffers from geography. The cold ocean currents offshore provides very little moisture into the air that flows over the land during the day. You need a good warm ocean to throw lots of moisture into the air to get rain. Look at the US gulf coast. Lots of warm water provides them with an abundance of rain. The down side is the increase in hurricanes.

Most of California is a desert. Deserts are dry.

If the state was smart, they would create large evaporation pools inland using the abundant ocean water. The increased moisture would greatly lesson the dry air issues and might contribute to snow pack accumulation at higher altitudes. Plus you would have a ready source of salt.

So just to summarize, the static conditions are the result of the dry air, not the cause.

DAB

3 of 3 people found this helpful
• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

Hello expert friends, I think this thread and those who have contributed to it are probably best equipped to help with my query. I hope this reaches you, considering the age of the initial question.

I live about 30 yards from an AC/Diesel freight train line (2 tracks and a sizable station a 1/2 mile away.) I experience strange things in my apartment, and through nearly a year of confusion and occasionally sheer horror, I believe the signs point to unharnessed electricity and/or static. It has a visual aspect. If I were to describe it, I'd say it *looks like* a current, flowing medium that doesn't fall on the visible light spectrum; an ionic charge(? not sure of the correct terminology here, forgive my ignorance). It appears fluid and affects my textiles in a way that they exhibit a fluid-like movement. Also, many of my things, primarily textiles, appear to off-gas... all. the. time. I witnessed a whitish gas vaporize from a sweatshirt once.

When I try to record the activity with my phone, the video looks very grainy, but I'm still able to record my bedding's legitimate movement, for example.

I don't own any measurement devices to verify my guess, and I can't think of anyone, or anywhere I could borrow from.

I've sprayed my entire place - everything, with 50/50 water to fabric softener on 2 occasions, and it doesn't seem to alleviate the activity, although it doesn't worsen it either. I tried a humidifier, albeit before I concluded an ionic charge. The occurrences that followed were terrifying - without getting into detail, specifically, the things that got out of hand involved my several indoor plants.

As long as my dog (first) and me (2nd) won't be harmed in the short or long term, I suppose it's okay. It's annoying and kind of creepy, though; it weirds me out, and if possible, I'd prefer to accommodate a tactic to resolve this.

Knowledgeable friends out there, do you think my suspicions are likely accurate? Can I measure it, and with what tool/meter? What can I do to address and resolve the issue? Are we facing any risk while living in this environment?

Please, and thank you tremendously; any contribution is appreciated.

Regan

• ###### Re: What is the best way to measure atmospheric electric fields?

You can buy or build an ESD meter, which would give you some measurements.

Does the place have a good ground connection?

Sometimes you can drive a long copper rod into the ground to establish a better ground.

You probably need to get one down ten feet or so to make a difference.

DAB