A transient upper atmospheric phenomenon occurring over a → thunderstorm in the lower → ionosphere. Elves result from especially powerful electromagnetic radiation pulses that are generated from certain lightning discharges (→ sprite). As the energy passes upwards through the base of the ionosphere it causes the gases to briefly glow for less than a thousandth of a second. This makes elves virtually impossible to see with the naked eye. Elves occur at a height of around 90-95 km, and can expand outward to several hundred kilometers in diameter, like giant expanding doughnuts.
Short for: Emission of Light and Very low-frequency perturbations from Electromagnetic pulse sources.
From E. elf "(in folklore) a small often malicious fairy; goblin; sprite;" O.E. elf, ælf, ylfe; cf. O.S. alf, O.N. alfr, Ger. alp, of unknown origin.