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At the Frontiers of Science: Earth's Global Electric Circuit Explained

Presenter: Jeffrey Forbes, University of Colorado
Date: Saturday, September 1, 2012

We live inside Earth's "global electric circuit," sharing our atmosphere with sprites, elves, blue jets, and other electric phenomena. Scientists have been studying our planet's electrical environment for a century or so, from the charged particles at the top of the atmosphere, to electrical storms in clouds, to lightning that sometimes reaches the ground. But we haven't had a way to study all of it, as a system, until now. 

The Global Electric Circuit project is building a virtual representation of Earth's electric environment in one computer model. The model will allow scientists throughout the world to experiment with the system and advance our knowledge about the electricity in our atmosphere—a central component of the world we live in. 

The project is led by the University of Colorado, Pennsylvania State University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research High Altitude Observatory division, with support from the National Science Foundation. (©UCAR. Video by Teresa Eastburn.) 

Topics:Earth System, Computer Modeling
Audience:General public, Informal education, Middle school, High school, Higher education

Written and edited by Teresa Eastburn, UCARConnect