High-speed solar winds increase lightning strikes on Earth

May 14, 2014
A thunderstorm above Unna, in Germany. Credit: smial/Wikipedia.

Scientists have discovered new evidence to suggest that lightning on Earth is triggered not only by cosmic rays from space, but also by energetic particles from the Sun.

University of Reading researchers found a link between increased thunderstorm activity on Earth and streams of high-energy particles accelerated by the , offering compelling evidence that particles from space help trigger lightning bolts.

Publishing their study today, 15 May 2014, in Environmental Research Letters, researchers from Reading's Department of Meteorology found a substantial and significant increase in lightning rates across Europe for up to 40 days after the arrival of high-speed solar winds, which can travel at more than a million miles per hour, into the Earth's atmosphere.

Although the exact mechanism that causes these changes remains unknown, the researchers propose that the electrical properties of the air are somehow altered as the incoming charged particles from the solar wind collide with the atmosphere.

The results could prove useful for weather forecasters, since these solar wind streams rotate with the Sun, sweeping past the Earth at regular intervals, accelerating particles into Earth's atmosphere. As these streams can be tracked by spacecraft, this offers the potential for predicting the severity of hazardous weather events many weeks in advance.

Lead author of the study, Dr Chris Scott, said: "Our main result is that we have found evidence that high-speed solar wind streams can increase lightning rates. This may be an actual increase in lightning or an increase in the magnitude of lightning, lifting it above the detection threshold of measurement instruments.

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"Cosmic rays, tiny particles from across the Universe accelerated to close to the speed of light by exploding stars, have been thought to play a part in thundery weather down on Earth, but our work provides new evidence that similar, if lower energy, particles created by our own Sun also affect lightning.

"As the Sun rotates every 27 days these high-speed streams of particles wash past our planet with predictable regularity. Such information could prove useful when producing long-range weather forecasts."

Professor Giles Harrison, head of Reading's Department of Meteorology and co-author of the ERL article, said: "In increasing our understanding of weather on Earth we are learning more about its important links with space weather. Bringing the topics of Earth Weather and Space Weather ever closer requires more collaborations between atmospheric and space scientists, in which the University of Reading is already leading the way."

To arrive at their results, the researchers analysed data on the strikes of lightning over the UK between 2000 and 2005, which was obtained from the UK Met Office's lightning detection system. They restricted their data to any event that occurred within a radius of 500 km from central England.

The record of was compared with data from Nasa's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft, which lies between the Sun and the Earth and measures the characteristics of solar winds.

After the arrival of a solar wind at the Earth, the researchers showed there was an average of 422 lightning strikes across the UK in the following 40 days, compared to an average of 321 lightning strikes in the 40 days prior the arrival of the solar wind. The rate of lightning strikes peaked between 12 and 18 days after the arrival of the solar wind.

The solar wind consists of a constant stream of energetic particles—mainly electrons and protons—that are propelled from the Sun's atmosphere at around a million miles per hour. The streams of particles can vary in density, temperature and speed and sweep past Earth every 27 days or so, in line with the time it takes the Sun to make one complete rotation relative to the Earth.

The Earth's magnetic field provides a sturdy defence against the solar wind, deflecting the energetic particles around the planet; however, if a fast solar stream catches up with a slow solar stream, it generates an enhancement in both the material and the associated magnetic field.

In these instances, the can have sufficient energies to penetrate down into the cloud-forming regions of the Earth's atmosphere and subsequently affect the weather that we experience.

"We propose that these , while not having sufficient energies to reach the ground and be detected there, nevertheless electrify the atmosphere as they collide with it, altering the electrical properties of the air and thus influencing the rate or intensity at which lightning occurs," said Dr Scott.

The increase in the rate of after the arrival of solar winds was corroborated by a significant increase in the days in which thunder was heard, which were recorded at UK Met Office stations around the UK.

Explore further: The science of lightning in extrasolar planets

More information: 'Evidence for solar wind modulation of lightning' C J Scott et al 2014 Environ. Res. Lett. 9 055004. iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/5/055004/article

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cantdrive85
1 / 5 (10) May 15, 2014
University of Reading researchers found a link between increased thunderstorm activity on Earth and streams of high-energy particles accelerated by the solar wind, offering compelling evidence that particles from space help trigger lightning bolts.

Nah... Really? Who'da thunk it?

One of these days they'll figure out the energy transfer from the solar environment (solar wind) and the Earth itself is what causes lightning, and in turn the storms and weather patterns that whip up in the atmosphere.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (7) May 15, 2014
One of these days they'll figure out the energy transfer from the solar environment (solar wind) and the Earth itself is what causes lightning, and in turn the storms and weather patterns that whip up in the atmosphere
@cd
and you have empirical data supporting this? peer reviewed data? maybe observations? I noticed you didn't link any, so I wonder....

Hmmmm.... so what about lightning around volcano's? better yet, the lightning over land in the tropics where atmospheric convection is the greatest? the fact that lightning doesn' normally occur without certain factors present.... I never see it on perfectly clear days...why not?

maybe you better notify NOAA of your POV so that we can enhance our view of physics and atmospheric science!
Nik_2213
3 / 5 (3) May 15, 2014
How would this affect the famous ELF 'global hum' that is sometimes used to gauge average global temperature ??
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (5) May 15, 2014
University of Reading researchers found a link between increased thunderstorm activity on Earth and streams of high-energy particles accelerated by the solar wind, offering compelling evidence that particles from space help trigger lightning bolts.
Nah... Really? Who'da thunk it?

One of these days they'll figure out the energy transfer from the solar environment (solar wind) and the Earth itself is what causes lightning, and in turn the storms and weather patterns that whip up in the atmosphere.


Oh, dear Zeus. We are about to get the EU spambot carving craters, with bolts from the sun, where our houses used to be.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (10) May 15, 2014
@cd
and you have empirical data supporting this? peer reviewed data? maybe observations?

What? You mean like this article?

Hmmmm.... so what about lightning around volcano's?

It's cool, isn't it? Not only that, but also consider earthquake lights and a wide variety of other phenomena.

http://www.sott.n...henomena

http://www.scient...eund.pdf

You see, the atmosphere is only a small part of the Sun-Earth circuit.

the fact that lightning doesn' normally occur without certain factors present....

Probably because the "certain factors" are a side effects of the charge exchange and are caused by the conditions produced by the lightning. As a matter of fact, precipitation and wind (charged particle flows carrying neutral matter along for the ride) are also likely a part of the energy exchange.
frostedpanda
1 / 5 (3) May 15, 2014


http://en.wikiped...ctricity
http://blogs.agu....ent-4081
Magnetism and light
the earths energy is created by the drawing near of photons that interact with particles of matter attracted by our earths magnetism. The heavier particles, protons, electrons are affected more by the magnetism, photons are not so affected and as a result cross perpendicularily through these particles as they are pulled into the poles. This interaction causes a magnetic reconnection event on the micro scale, as all the particles are affected, the fluctuation in their magnetic fields causes the Birkeland currents which flow dawn to dusk across the face of the earth at the poles. This in turn is the support for the second and third Van Allen belts activation, energization which protects the earth by magnetic barriers that result. Also the core of the earth is affected, heated, by the induction of the fluctuations, changes in electrical current caused by the suns solar storms and magnetism.
A black hole being highly magnetic as evidenced by it's 'appetite' for light to a presence of mass (beyond the 'event' horizon) with the perpendicular ejection of energy from its 'poles'.
Birkeland currents at earth's poles created by the bending/concentrating its photon light which arrives perpendicular to the mass of the heavier more attractive particles drawn into the poles. It is important to note the flow of high voltage electrical energy is from dawn to dusk. Even we are told the colors in the arora are colliding particles, i think it is more like the rainbow effect we see when it rains with some sun, the electrons and protons must be 'clear' like water droplets so a polarization of light would occur that we would see as the aurora's rainbow color sheets.
The ejected particles electrons, protons, from the sun accelerate inwards to the poles, a magnetism induced 'vortex' as evidenced by Aurora and detected by Nasa RBSP satalites ..(suns 'heat' we see @ feel in the shorter wavelengths) The photons pass through the particles so attracted creating the electrical current sheets powering the earth to life.
When the arriving electrons and protons come into the poles, which way are they facing as they are being attracted?
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (5) May 15, 2014
Probably because the "certain factors" are a side effects of the charge exchange and are caused by the conditions produced by the lightning
@CD
nope. sorry. this does not make sense.
IF the factors were a side effect, and the main cause of lightening was solar, be it CME, radiance, plasma (continuous or otherwise-like solar wind) then logically there would be NO bias towards land/sea, nor in regard to atmospheric conditions, nor a tropical bias
https://upload.wi...ikes.png
which is something that we OBSERVE, therefore your philosophy must, by definition, be wrong.
The solar discharges can ENHANCE lightning and especially when atmospheric conditions support it (which is the point of the article) and you've provided no evidence supporting any extra-terrestrial or solar primary source for lightning, which your statement
the solar environment (solar wind) and the Earth itself is what causes lightning
implies
cantdrive85
1.3 / 5 (6) May 16, 2014
then logically there would be NO bias towards land/sea,

That's your own logic, and questionable at best. You miss the point as usual, I'm not suggesting a simplification of the models but taking all our current knowledge and adding the immense complexity of the electrical connection of the Sun-Earth-Moon system (whole solar system at that) and how that affects weather, climate, and other geophysical phenomena.

nor in regard to atmospheric conditions, which is something that we OBSERVE,

Another thing the Max Plank Inst. observed is weather can be created when electrically charged particles are added to the atmosphere;
http://www.arabia...038.html
barakn
4.3 / 5 (3) May 16, 2014
We propose that these particles, while not having sufficient energies to reach the ground and be detected there, nevertheless electrify the atmosphere as they collide with it, altering the electrical properties of the air and thus influencing the rate or intensity at which lightning occurs. -Dr. Scott

Neutrons at ground level are enhanced during these types of events and are a much better proxy for the amount of energetic particles hitting the atmosphere, leading one to wonder why neutron monitor data were excluded in favor of ACE data.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) May 16, 2014
I'm not suggesting a simplification of the models but taking all our current knowledge and adding the immense complexity
@cd
you mean like this? http://iopscience.../article
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) May 16, 2014
You miss the point as usual
@cd
no. I got your point. you missed mine.
I will stop being subtle.
SCIENCE works. They continually add what they LEARN to what they KNOW to further explain what is going on, and then hypothesize about what is out there, using all known factors. Then they refine their hypothesis with tests and experiments, or establish new info with the results. This CHANGES things when the Empirical data/observation does not match the hypothesis/prediction

SCIENCE changes in the face of empirical data.

only a pseudoscience refuses to acknowledge empirical data and admit facts to continue on with their belief, much like a religion.

the above study is underpinned by a great deal of other studies, experiments, and empirical data, which adds to the force of the study and knowledge

In fact, the study makes sense
but SAYING =/= PROVING
proving is different than speculating, as shown above
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) May 17, 2014
only a pseudoscience refuses to acknowledge empirical data and admit facts to continue on with their belief, much like a religion.

Yep, know all about it from big bangers and their continuous failure to find DM, gravity waves, space time, and any number of other phenomena required to make their theories work.

SCIENCE changes in the face of empirical data.

You don't say. Well if that is the case , the info above along with other recently discovered such as this;
http://journals.a...1.235002

...should indicate to AGWites that we don't fully understand the Sun-Earth energy connection/interaction and any claims made by them about climate should be retracted and recalculated to include this new info along with other unknown unknowns. Oddly, that's not how "science" works though, AGWites will continue to claim superior clairvoyance and insist their beliefs have not been falsified and continue with their Chicken Little claims.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2014
should indicate to AGWites that we don't fully understand the Sun-Earth energy connection/interaction
@cd
ok, given that you only posted the abstract (and likely cannot access the whole paper either) you are going to have to spell out specifically what YOU think the abstract talks about that is misunderstood, as well as offer your proof/analysis of the publications that are refuted. Big claims require big proof, and you are making a BIG claim...

in fact, it sounds like your claim of astrophysicists not knowing about plasma, which has been repeatedly shown to be a BLATANT and overly stupid repetitious LIE perpetrated by YOU and EU acolytes

are we going to have to take you to task again over climate science now too? by all means, please SHOW US ALL where climate science is wrong. please be specific.

P.S. your claims above are personal conjecture. please provide PROOF and specific relevant points
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet May 17, 2014
Yep, know all about it from big bangers
@cd
and again... the modern theories of cosmology are theories with support from empirical data and observation, which is a FAR cry from the pseudoscience philosophy of EU which has been publicly dismantled by physics and observation.

Tell you what, though... I will make you and your EU an offer. I will set up a PUBLIC DEBATE for your EU people to gather at against some published astrophysicists. How is that? We will even get Camera crews in so that there will be no bias and all parties can have copies.

We can invite news crews and intellectual people as well as having a multi-background judge panel form various backgrounds from physics and astrophysics to Climate science, and maybe throw in a couple of regular Joe's to boot...

maybe we can go live and publish direct to internet too!
I'll take it up with AAAS and see if they will sponsor it... what say yall?
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) May 17, 2014
It took me about .64 seconds to find this...
http://physics.ap...1.235002

in fact, it sounds like your claim of astrophysicists not knowing about plasma,

Your hero timmy thompson has already claimed that double layers (DL) are unimportant in plasma phenomena (one of his claims of Alfven being wrong), and as it has been shown numerous times (proven fact, not personal conjecture) that MHD models which these astrophysicists use DO NOT predict or account for DL's it should not be surprising this discovery was unexpected. What it does do though is show there are definitely previously unknown mechanisms which allow for the transfer of energy from the solar wind to Earth's magnetosphere. This flies directly in the face of AGWism which sees the Earth as largely a closed system affected only by solar irradiance.

you are going to have to spell out specifically what YOU think the abstract talks about

If you don't know, you don't know.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (3) May 17, 2014
the modern theories of cosmology are theories with support from empirical data and observation,

There is remarkably little empirical support for BB and BH cosmology, just well experience snake oil salesmen with a keen ability to pull the wool over the ignorant masses.
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet May 17, 2014
If you don't know, you don't know.
@cd
this is pretty much my point. YOU DONT KNOW
as for
thompson has already claimed that double layers (DL) are unimportant in plasma phenomena (one of his claims of Alfven being wrong)
please use link/reference so that we can verify if this is/is not about a specific phenomenon
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
MHD models which these astrophysicists use DO NOT predict or account for DL's
@cd
I hate to break your stupid heart, but from your own link
Theories of particle acceleration in solar flares [14–16], star formation [17], accretion into neutron stars [18], and double radio galaxies, quasars, and extragalactic jets [19,20] have also invoked double layers. So these observations in the terrestrial magnetosphere may be important in other planetary radiation belts such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune [32], in the solar corona during flares, and in astrophysical objects
which directly contradicts your MHD claims as it PROVES that the MHD includes it. guess you cant read?
WAIT, there is more!
This suggests that the double layers may be a necessary ingredient for relativistic electron acceleration, possibly because they make the required seed population
THOMPSON has pointed this out before... guess he is RIGHT!
makes you look stupid, cd.
Thompson- 10,000
EU- 0
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
This flies directly in the face of AGWism which sees the Earth as largely a closed system affected only by solar irradiance
@cd
do I really have to tell you just how blatantly stupid this comment is?
neither Runrig nor Thompson have ever claimed this, nor have I ever seen ANY scientists that believes that there is nothing to be learned and that we have all the answers...
therefore your comment is a blatant attempt at obfuscation
it is also personal conjecture based upon stupidity as you've already had this conversation before with others, AND
AND
AND
I need to reiterate that you are likely just making an attempt to spread FUD for your own purposes in order to elevate a KNOWN pseudoscience into a higher status, which shall fail as EU is already demonstrably proven FALSE.

think about that public live debate
I would LOVE to see you publicly, live, support your beliefs to AAAS as well as the world.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
Yep, know all about it from big bangers
@cd
and again... the modern theories of cosmology are theories with support from empirical data and observation, which is a FAR cry from the pseudoscience philosophy of EU which has been publicly dismantled by physics and observation.

Tell you what, though... I will make you and your EU an offer. I will set up a PUBLIC DEBATE for your EU people to gather at against some published astrophysicists. How is that? We will even get Camera crews in so that there will be no bias and all parties can have copies.

We can invite news crews and intellectual people as well as having a multi-background judge panel form various backgrounds from physics and astrophysics to Climate science, and maybe throw in a couple of regular Joe's to boot...

maybe we can go live and publish direct to internet too!
I'll take it up with AAAS and see if they will sponsor it... what say yall?

You're gonna need an Artist on your panel....
What's it pay?
Captain Stumpy
not rated yet May 17, 2014
the modern theories of cosmology are theories with support from empirical data and observation,

There is remarkably little empirical support for BB and BH cosmology, just well experience snake oil salesmen with a keen ability to pull the wool over the ignorant masses.
considering they are on much more solid footing than EU... this says a LOT about your EU philosophy.
EU is not only unsupported, but makes fallacious claims that not only are NOT observed, but are not capable of being observed. NOR is there observed forensic/archeological evidence supporting some of their other supercilious, fatuous and inane claims.

P.S. did you pick that paper because your buddies were referenced? DID YOU NOTICE ANYTHING ELSE about that paper?
ITS IMPORTANT!
you should have spotted it...
What's it pay?
@WGyre
for you? room and board... an awesome Roadkill Spaghetti dinner that is known in more than 20 states as delectable, and notoriety galore! and ... I have a dollar!

Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
@WGyre
for you? room and board... an awesome Roadkill Spaghetti dinner that is known in more than 20 states as delectable, and notoriety galore! and ... I have a dollar!

Well, dang! I'm in!

cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) May 17, 2014
P.S. did you pick that paper because your buddies were referenced? DID YOU NOTICE ANYTHING ELSE about that paper?


Yes, oddly when real laboratory/experimental based plasma physics are required it is practically impossible to avoid referencing Alfven or those who worked/studied under him. Oh and I see where they use a reference to a "known" (according to you) pseudoscience source, IEEE Transactions. So we'll add that to the list, that's number one. BTW, when REAL in situ measured, not purely theoretical, plasma physics are discussed, Alfven, Peratt, Carlquist, et al, must be referenced due to the expertise in plasma physics. What's really odd, contrary to Timmy Thompson's claims of Alfven being incorrect in his treatment of plasma, when real in situ experiments are performed, the physics developed by Alfven for his Plasma Cosmology "surprisingly" must be used to explain the phenomena involved.
adam_russell_9615
not rated yet May 17, 2014
Maybe we could retrieve even more power from the sun than just with the usual solar panels that convert photons to electricity. Im not sure how to capture the power from a solar wind, but I think there is much energy to be had there.
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (5) May 26, 2014
It should also be noted we have found evidence that electrodynamic nanodust created by electric discharge (probably on sun) has found it's way the the surface of the earth via hailstones. The skeletal features created by this nanodust have also been observed in various weather phenomena.

http://uni-skelet...1_42.pdf
http://uni-skelet...3_64.pdf
http://uni-skelet..._116.pdf

Seems we have some nanodust skeletons in the closet...