Study: Hurricanes affect VLF radio signals in the Ionosphere

Plain Language Summary

Hurricanes and tropical storms are severe atmospheric weather phenomena that can affect drastically the human life. The effect of this kind of events is not only limited to ground level but also extends through the atmosphere to the high altitudes. One of the most important features of these events, which has an impact on the atmospheric dynamic and possibly climate variability, is the gravity waves (GWs). GWs propagate upward and outward and have been detected up to the top of the ionosphere. This work gives a clear evidence of the GWs effect on the lower region of the ionosphere (50–90 km) and in the middle atmosphere (mesosphere), that have been comparatively less studied. With very low frequency signal analysis we found that the GWs are able to modify the propagation of the radio signals even if the perpendicular distance of the storm center to the signal path is larger than 1,000 km. Additionally, the wavelet analysis of the very low frequency signal amplitude for several days showed a wave‐like activity between periods of 2 to 3 hr, which are typical to GWs.

VLF Signal Anomalies During Cyclone Activity in the Atlantic Ocean


In this paper we present ionospheric disturbances during the simultaneous presence of two to three Large Meteorological Systems, classified as hurricanes and tropical storms, in the Atlantic Ocean from August to November 2016. The ionospheric disturbances were detected by very low frequency (3–30 kHz) signals from two North American transmitters observed in Algiers (36.75°N, 03.47°E). The results show clear anomalies in the amplitude both at nighttime and at daytime. At nighttime, the anomalies were observed in association with all Large Meteorological Systems even at low stage of storm intensity (tropical depression). The anomalies showed periodicities between 2 and 3 hr with a strong decrease in the signal amplitude. The wave‐like features were confirmed by the mother wavelet analysis of the normalized signal amplitude. These signal anomalies may result from traveling ionospheric disturbances generated by tropical storms and hurricanes associated gravity waves.

The paper (paywalled)

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October 12, 2018 12:07 pm

VLF – ionosphere???

VLF hugs the ground. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of VLF in conjunction with the ionosphere.

In the beginning of radio communication, VLF was where it was at. The result was huge antennas with equally huge grounding systems called counterpoises, and giant 200 kw transmitters that were essentially RF alternators. link Those were the days. 🙂

Reply to  commieBob
October 12, 2018 2:31 pm

You can build a radio telescope and listen to the VLF emissions from the Sun.

Reply to  cinaed
October 12, 2018 2:45 pm

Opps – that should have read VLF from ionosphere caused the Sun’s radio storms.

Reply to  commieBob
October 12, 2018 5:45 pm

VLF radio signals typically travel in the “waveguide” formed by the surface of the Earth and the lower ionosphere. This is quite an efficient propagation mode. On a wideband receiver if you tune downwards from say, the medium wave broadcast band when you get to around 60kHz you’ll start receiving continuous “sferics” from thunderstorm operating thousands of kilometres away, day and night (local man made interference permitting of course).

Reply to  hashbang
October 13, 2018 12:23 am

True, 60kHz VLF and lower have a lambda of 10km+ and propagate by waveguide effect between Ionosphere and gnd.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  commieBob
October 14, 2018 1:41 pm

“VLF hugs the ground. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of VLF in conjunction with the ionosphere.” –

Law of reciprocal actions (actio= reactio, Newton’s thirdlaw)

October 12, 2018 12:20 pm

“These signal anomalies may result from traveling ionospheric disturbances generated by tropical storms and hurricanes associated gravity waves.”
A dyslectic pseudo-scientist might write:
“The ionospheric disturbances (due to solar activity) as detected by VLF radio signals anomalies give rise to the incidence of tropical storms and hurricanes”

Walter Sobchak
October 12, 2018 12:38 pm

Just shows the power of hurricanes. Nature deals in quantities of energy that are far beyond our pitiful ability to affect.

Each of the 5 named tropical storms and several unnamed non tropical storms like the one between Iceland and Greenland is pumping incredible quantities of energy into the stratosphere and thence into outer space. Human beings are just spectators.

Joel O’Bryan
October 12, 2018 12:58 pm

That paper is paywalled, but the same group studies the exact same VLF propagation phenomenon from a December 2012 Tropical Cyclone (Evan) out in the Pacific near Samoa.

If you want to read on their techniques and analyses and discussion, that paper is Available here:
(not paywalled)

Aurora Negra
October 12, 2018 1:41 pm

That the ionosphere is affected by storms that creates waves has been known for more than half a century. There are lots of studies using different radars, optical systems and rockets ++. All it shows is that energy from storm systems radiates outwards. The details are not easy to explain.
Paywalled papers are an insult to taxpayers!

Alan Tomalty
October 12, 2018 4:32 pm

Gravity waves do not exist. This is another hoax perpetrated by the science of physics who also brought you the pink elephants of dark matter and dark energy.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 12, 2018 5:37 pm

There are gravity waves and gravitational waves. I think you are referring to gravitational waves.

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Hashbang
October 12, 2018 7:04 pm

I think he is willfully ignorant or in denial of modern physics. there no help for that.
Dark matter or dark energy though are another matter.
All the tested predictions of GR have passed every test, measrement, or experiment ever applied.
GPS proves GR is a sound theory every time I start my car.
Is there something beyond GR that extends the theory to the quantum particle level? Probably.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Hashbang
October 12, 2018 8:40 pm

Yes I meant gravitational waves. What are gravitational waves supposed to consist of? The analogy of wind in air does not compute because air is not a near vacuum . If gravitational waves were some kind of energy then I could begin to accept them, but no one defines them as energy. There are 2 things in our universe. Matter and energy. Therefore gravitational waves would have to be some form of matter. How can matter be created out of a near vacuum? You are talking about the displacement of outer space. In other words the displacement of a near vacuum. Sure, there are infinitesimal very short life quanta of energy particles (virtual particles cannot be directly detected) in a near perfect vacuum( perfect vacuum being impossible). But these arent part of the supposed gravitational wave because they are energy and they dont last long (less than pico seconds). So if they aren’t virtual particles and they aren’t energy, they must consist of real particles. Where did these real particles come from if the gravitational wave is a displacement of space itself and space is a virtual vacuum (well, close enough to a vacuum)? The whole concept is as strange as the “spooky action at a distance” of entanglement. To believe in gravitational waves is to believe that space can be redistributed and even ripped apart. Thus you would also have to believe in wormholes (Einstein’s math allowed for wormholes) which then leads you to going back into time. Where does this madness end? Until mankind can really understand gravity we are just guessing at the true nature of the cosmos.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 12, 2018 9:30 pm

Gravitational waves are an expected, computed outcome from Einstein’s equations of General Relativity. We now have hard observational evidence they exist from 3 different detectors. Independently repeatable, confirming observations and confirming hard data are the foundations of science. Einstein’s GW’s have that. Nobel Prize in Physics for that has been awarded for that GW confirmation of Einstein’s GR.

It is beyond human comprehension how a two 30-solar mass black holes (for example) that form a binary system (they shone exquisitely as blue-hot gamma-ray hell stars for a million year or so before becoming blackholes) could coalesce to form an even bigger unitary singularity. The event horizon around each original BH was less than a hundred kilometers. As the two BHs’ in-spiraled, they slowly bled-off energy in the form of Gravitational Waves, accelerating ever faster like a figure skater pulling in her arms.
In their final < 1 second before coalescing into an even bigger black hole, they gave off at least 1-2 solar mass equivalents (E=mc^2) of energy of GW's. So much GW energy, that even as the faintest of whispers from the past, we now can detect that in-spiral chirp. That was 1-2 Billion years ago in the cosmic space around us.

This inspiral is detectable by the Advanced LIGO array today (One in Hansford, WA, one in Livingston, LA, and the European LIGO in Italy). It is a fascinating story. And it is real.

Observing phase 3 (O3) for the Advanced LIGO and European Virgo detectors starts sometime in 2019, hopefully right after the New Year.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 12, 2018 9:46 pm

I agree we do not know truly what gravity is. And we never know. We may keep getting closer, but if it (gravity) does permeate to extra-dimensions beyond our reach, we will never really know what it is.

Dark Matter theory is clearly in crisis in the world of cosmology today. Every attempt to experimentally find/detect what the theory predicts what would be a dark matter particle (called WIMP’s) have failed completely. The field of Dark Matter is soul searching for something else. Right now without Dark Matter, no one can explain the apparent high rotation rate of big galaxies like our own Milky Way or Andromeda.

Alternate purely theoretical ideas of a post-Newtonian gravity and extended (Einstein’s) GR exist in abundance. But without some observation to point to which one might be correct, it is nothing more at this point than everyone trying to calculate the number of angels on a pinhead. No one’s count is better than the next guy’s without an observation.

Dark energy at least has some hope that it was described in GR as Einstein’s original “Cosmologic Constant.” But Einstein himself called that his biggest blunder for GR in the 1930’s. But without a cosmologic constant/Dark Energy explanation, no one can explain the apparent accelerating expansion of the universe. What is driving the acceleration? universe end in a Big Rip?

But Gravitational Waves are real. They have multiple, independently confirming observations. They are as real as gravitational lensing light rays near a massive object, of the slowing of a ticking clock in a gravity well.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 13, 2018 2:15 am

Redshift is the only clue to expansion. And Gravitational lensing should redshift – the famous Gargantua image in Interstellar is wrong, despite Kip Thorne’s best efforts. The Einstein Cross is presumably redshifted.
This is why JWT infrared telescope will be stunning.

Quasar redshift is the give-away- it does not indicate distance. See Halton Arp’s work.

Anyway gravitational astronomy opens another window. Hmmm I wonder if gravitational waves are redshifted with “expansion”?

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 13, 2018 2:49 am

I’m always surprised Einstein’s message is ignored – gravity is spacetime, not a “stuff”. He showed spacetime is only the action happening “in it”. The energy density is directly related to curvature , sure mathematical, continuous. The “force” is a projection of that curvature – that maths can sure hurt in a Soyuz 9g emergency reentry after brief weightlessness!
Geometry will never be the same again, and never euclidean, newtonian absolute, no matter what the (otherwise interesting) electric universe people say.
Attempting to make spacetime a “stuff” (ather) with QM fails miserably, or sends people like Lord Rees onto the catastrophic bandwagon.
And most surprising of all is the complete blackout on S.Hawking’s 2014 paper – there are no black holes, the both radiate away and cannot form. Einstein also made fun of them.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 13, 2018 10:55 am

“Hmmm I wonder if gravitational waves are redshifted with “expansion”?”

Yes, they are. But GW’s from Binary Black Hole (BBH) mergers have a frequency of ~20 Hz to about 500 Hz. The more massive the coalescing pair, the lower the maximum frequency at merger. The lowest mass BBH merger GW detected and reported by Advanced LIGO (so far) was GW170608, detected 2017 June 08 at 02:01:16 UTC. It had an estimated total mass of 18-24 solar masses, Ms, radiated away 0.7-0.9 Ms as GW energy, for a final remnant BH mass of 17-23 Ms.

GW170608 had a max frequency (at maximum GW strain of 530 Hz (+/-80 Hz) and lasted about 2 seconds from detection through its frequency chirp. The source BBH had an estimated distance of 0.7 – 1.5 Billion light years, with a red shift of 0.04 to 0.1 (estimated).

But at those low GW frequencies, and the relatively nearness of the detectable sources, “red shift” doesn’t mean much for the detection distances involved. And high red shift objects are at a distance of >10 GLy, so they are far, far too distant to detect GW from.

But GWs are indeed affected by gravity lensing itself even though they can pass right through the core of a sun (stretching and squeezing the Sun and its nuclear core, and its finely ordered field of magnetic flux tubes deep in the Convection Zone IAW Einstein’s GR predicted tensor field polarization).

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 14, 2018 5:06 am

Birkeland current’s explain a lot that nothing else does.

Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 12, 2018 6:17 pm

Einstein predicted gravitational waves and a hundred years later we had the wherewithal to build a detector, and detected them. link

Dark matter, dark energy, and string theory are not required for gravitational waves.

I highly recommend carefully listening to a CBC Ideas program featuring Neil Truok. link He points to some serious problems with physics as it is currently practiced. Without naming them, he points out that physics is dominated by entrenched schools of thought. It is nearly impossible to speak against orthodoxy. It is probably career suicide for a young researcher to do so. The result is that physics has stagnated and hasn’t produced any findings confirmed by experiment for thirty five years. (In drug research we have Eroom’s Law)

Turok manages to be honest and diplomatic at the same time. He does not let himself be prodded into endorsing CAGW.

Listening to the lecture will reward a careful listen. We, denizens of WUWT, know about the corruption of climate science. Turok is another of a growing number of scientists who speak against the corruption of science in general.

Reply to  commieBob
October 12, 2018 10:55 pm

” The result is that physics has stagnated and hasn’t produced any findings confirmed by experiment for thirty five years.”

“Wallace Thornhill: The Long Path to Understanding Gravity | EU2015
In the theoretical sciences, it is commonly assumed that the role of gravity is settled. But as Richard Feynman observed, “There is no model of the theory of gravitation today, other than the mathematical form.” The problem is that mathematics will not account for the essential force in question. And yet, when theorists speculate about the big bang one conjecture is followed by another all building on the supposed supremacy of gravity as the driving force of cosmic evolution. In this talk at the EU2015 conference, Wal Thornhill takes us on a forty-year personal journey to understand the role of gravity in the electric universe.”

John Tillman
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 12, 2018 10:12 pm


Gravitational waves are a fact, ie a scientific observation. Moreover, their existence was predicted.

But gravity remains mysterious, much more so than the other grand unifying themes of other scientific disciplines, such as the atomic theory of matter, the germ theory of infectious disease, quantum mechanics and the fact of evolution.

Richard Patton
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 13, 2018 11:33 am

There are gravity waves (atmospheric) and gravity waves (astronomical). What the article is referring to is more correctly called internal gravity waves or buoyancy waves. This article is very enlightening what the atmospheric ones are:

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
October 14, 2018 1:23 pm

“In fluid dynamics, gravity waves are waves generated in a fluid medium or at the interface between two media when the force of gravity or buoyancy tries to restore equilibrium. An example of such an interface is that between the atmosphere and the ocean, which gives rise to wind waves.”

HD Hoese
October 12, 2018 5:18 pm

Even bubbles can produce electrical properties–
Blanchard, D. C. 1963. The electrification of the atmosphere by particles from bubbles in the sea. pp 171-201, In, Sears, M. (Ed.) Progress in Oceanography I. Macmillan, NY.

And–Fox, F. E. and K. F. Herzfeld. 1954. Gas bubbles with organic skin as cavitation nuclei. Journal Acoustical Society of America 26(6):984-989.

Lots of shaking going on!

October 12, 2018 8:46 pm

And, of course the propagation of energy from VLF radiation is modeled perfectly in the CAGW climate models along with every other possible bit of energy in the world, because we know the models are infallible.

To think that CAGW models that crude that take into account so few variables for such a tiny slot of time can accurately predict the future is just crazy.

Kaiser Derden
October 12, 2018 9:53 pm

severe atmospheric weather phenomena that can affect drastically the human life. … seems like they forgot to mention just how this drastically effects HUMAN life on Earth … oops … I guess they inserted that for funding …

david lm
October 14, 2018 1:48 am

Does anyone still use VLF?

I don’t hear too much down there apart from a few airport beacons and a handful of ham radio operators using digital modes invented by Prof Joe Taylor (WSJT)

Propagation at VLF is dominated by the D layer of the ionosphere, which collapses after dark, allowing E layer reflections. Whatever the effect of storms on VLF propagation from GW modulation it would surely be minuscule compared to the effect of the electrical noise from lightning

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