A major new study has come to a surprising conclusion about what the sun's fierce solar storms are doing to our atmosphere.
Researchers in Denmark have just made a big discovery high up in the atmosphere above us: a sign that solar storms are wreaking havoc, stripping out massive quantities of electrons, even though scientists had long believed solar storms cause an excess of electrons. The findings were published in the journal Radio Science by scientists at the Technical University of Denmark.
The paper indicates that electrons disappear from large parts of the atmosphere, all the while showing up in tremendous numbers in other places. Scientists had seen this happen before, but until now didn’t know what was causing it.
It’s an important finding as it will help scientists better understand the relationship between electromagnetic storms and our Earth’s atmosphere, and how they knock out communications and navigation systems. It could help us prevent those kind of outages in the future, or at the very least better understand it when it happens and predict them when they occur.
“We made extensive measurements in connection with a specific solar storm over the Arctic in 2014, and here we found that electrons in large quantities are virtually vacuum-cleaned from areas extending over 500 to 1,000 kilometres. It takes place just south of an area with heavy increases in electron density, known as patches,” says Professor Per Høeg from DTU Space.
“The forerunner to the phenomenon is a violent eruption on the Sun’s surface–also known as coronal mass ejections or CME, where bubbles of hot plasma and gas in the form of particles, electrons, and a magnetic field are hurled in the direction of the Earth,” says Per Høeg.