Vertical electric current density was obtained from direct electric field and conductivity measurements on two stratospheric balloon payloads during the 2nd polar patrol balloon (PPB) campaign from Syowa Station in Antarctica during January 2003. Payloads of these two flights were identical and were launched 8-h apart resulting in separation distances of a few hundred km during the time of overlapping data. The float altitude of each was a little over 30 km. The global circuit return current derived from these measurements is compared to the global lightning activity determined by the world wide lightning location (WWLLN) network. The total number of lightning events detected anywhere in the world are simply summed to form an hourly lightning flash rate for the time of the PPB data. The WWLLN and return current density data are shown to have a strong correlation, often with a strong universal time daily variation, similar to that expected for the global circuit.
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