Solar storms can drain electrical charge above Earth

April 11, 2017, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
A solar eruption on Sept. 26, 2014, seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. If erupted solar material reaches Earth, it can deplete the electrons in the upper atmosphere in some locations while adding electrons in others, disrupting communications either way. Credit: NASA

New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth's poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles. The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.

A team of researchers from Denmark, the United States and Canada made the discovery while studying a solar storm that reached Earth on Feb. 19, 2014. The storm was observed to affect the ionosphere in all of Earth's northern latitudes. Its effects on Greenland were documented by a network of system, or GNSS, stations as well as geomagnetic observatories and other resources. Attila Komjathy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, developed software to process the GNSS data and helped with the data processing. The results were published in the journal Radio Science.

Solar storms often include an eruption on the sun called a , or CME. This is a vast cloud of electrically charged particles hurled into space that disturbs the interplanetary magnetic field in our solar system. When these particles and the magnetic disturbances encounter Earth's magnetic field, they interact in a series of complex physical processes, and trigger perturbations in the Earth's . Those perturbations are called geomagnetic storms. The interactions may cause unstable patches of excess electrons in the ionosphere, an atmospheric region starting about 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth's surface that already contains ions and electrons.

The 2014 was a result of two powerful Earth-directed CMEs. The storm initially produced patches of extra electrons in the ionosphere over northern Greenland, as usual. But just south of these patches, the scientists were surprised to find broad areas extending 300 to 600 miles (500 to 1,000 kilometers) where the electrons were "almost vacuumed out," in the words of Per Hoeg of the National Space Research Institute at the Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby. These areas remained depleted of electrons for several days.

The electrons in the ionosphere normally reflect radio waves back to ground level, enabling long-distance radio communications. Both electron depletion and electron increases in this layer can possibly cause radio communications to fail, reduce the accuracy of GPS systems, damage satellites and harm electrical grids.

"We don't know exactly what causes the depletion," Komjathy said. "One possible explanation is that electrons are recombining with positively charged ions until there are no excess electrons. There could also be redistribution—electrons being displaced and pushed away from the region, not only horizontally but vertically."

The paper is titled "Multiinstrument observations of a geomagnetic storm and its effects on the Arctic ionosphere: A case study of the 19 February 2014 ." Lead author Tibor Durgonics is a doctoral student at the Technical University of Denmark. Richard Langley (University of New Brunswick, Canada) provided data sets and interpretation.

Explore further: Solar storms trigger surprising phenomena close to Earth

More information: Tibor Durgonics et al. Multiinstrument observations of a geomagnetic storm and its effects on the Arctic ionosphere: A case study of the 19 February 2014 storm, Radio Science (2017). DOI: 10.1002/2016RS006106

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6 comments

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cantdrive85
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 11, 2017
Electrical engineering concepts such as circuitry and electric discharge mechanisms need to be considered for these types of phenomena. Just as when you grab a doorknob, there will likely be a transfer of electrically charged particles in the equalization process.
jonesdave
4.4 / 5 (7) Apr 11, 2017
Electrical engineering concepts such as circuitry and electric discharge mechanisms need to be considered for these types of phenomena. Just as when you grab a doorknob, there will likely be a transfer of electrically charged particles in the equalization process.


Give it a rest. You haven't got the faintest clue about astrophysics; or any sort of physics, come to that. Spare us your crap. Please. Just leave it to people who actually know what they are talking about. Yes?
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 11, 2017
Electrical engineering concepts such as circuitry and electric discharge mechanisms need to be considered for these types of phenomena
@nazi sympathizing pseudoscience cult preacher
repeating your lies don't make them more true
from the study
We present a multiinstrumented approach for the analysis of the Arctic ionosphere...
The geomagnetic storm was the result of two powerful Earth-directed coronal mass ejections (CMEs)...
In situ observations from the Canadian CASSIOPE (CAScade, Smallsat and IOnospheric Polar Explorer) satellite's ion mass spectrometer...
the final nail in your coffin
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
and again, this demonstrates the problem you continually have presenting evidence for your claims

you cannot produce any

whereas astrophysicists actually do work with engineers and plasma physics regularly

Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2017
Electrical engineering concepts such as circuitry and electric discharge mechanisms need to be considered for these types of phenomena. Just as when you grab a doorknob, there will likely be a transfer of electrically charged particles in the equalization process.

Not unless there's carpet or dry socks in there somewhere...
cantdrive85
2 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2017
Not unless there's carpet or dry socks in there somewhere...

I suppose clouds are really socks and the Earth merely the carpet below our feet. The clouds drag their bottoms across the the earth to create lightning. Is that your artists impression of it?
https://phys.org/...ace.html
bschott
1 / 5 (2) Apr 12, 2017
Electrical engineering concepts such as circuitry and electric discharge mechanisms need to be considered for these types of phenomena

An accurate assessment, supported...even by the mainstream
@nazi sympathizing pseudoscience cult preacher
repeating your lies don't make them more true

A beautiful response to the above was the link to where the comment is supported by the mainstream:
https://phys.org/...ace.html
And reading the comments section under that link, apparently the dumbass was in full support of the concept as well at that time. Linking an article that supports the comment was nice, but seeing the same moron has posted a comment there in support of the concept, then completely contradicted himself here by calling the concepts lies was hilarious. Of course he is repeating a pattern of contradictive posting we are familiar with, driven to respond to the poster instead of the post itself, making himself look foolish once again.
Just pathetic.

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