Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ESA studies the Sun-Earth climate link

23.08.2002


Meteorologists can no longer view the Earth as an isolated system. Both long-term climate changes and day-to-day weather show links with the Sun`s activity. Scientists therefore study the nature of those links intensely. With data from ESA`s spaceprobes SOHO, Cluster, and Ulysses, we now have the information we need to solve the mystery of how the Sun`s activity affects the climate here on Earth. This study is the first step in setting up a new type of weather forecast - the space-weather bulletin.



For the Sun to affect the Earth`s weather, the Sun`s behaviour must vary in some way. At visible wavelengths, however, the Sun is remarkably constant. Satellite data show that there are dramatic changes going on beyond this narrow range. For example, the Sun emits a `wind` of charged particles and we know that this wind is variable. The ultraviolet radiation released by the Sun also varies. Studying the interaction between solar variability and the Earth environment is a science known as `space weather`.

This solar variability is caused by the ever-changing magnetic behaviour of the Sun. The Sun`s magnetic behaviour changes on an 11-year cycle, passing from `solar minimum` to `solar maximum`. At the peak of this cycle, one of which occurred last year, the solar wind is stormy because explosions on the Sun`s surface catapult particles outwards with an increased intensity. The energy released during such explosions can be up to one thousand million megatonnes (or 66 thousand million times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb). Such events are also the source of the variable ultraviolet emissions.
ESA`s solar fleet is observing these phenomena very carefully and from several points in space. The joint ESA/NASA spaceprobe, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), is constantly watching the Sun, monitoring this activity. The solar wind gusts buffet the magnetic field of the Earth. ESA`s quartet of satellites, Cluster, monitors these effects close to Earth while Ulysses patrols the Sun in a tilted orbit, well away from the plane of the planets, to get a more `global` view of the solar wind.



These data, linked with meteorological and other data, are an invaluable source of information to study the Sun`s effects on the Earth. "All the data is being archived and made available to the science community," says Alexi Glover, one of the space-weather team at ESA`s ESTEC organisation in the Netherlands. SOHO has been designed to work for 3 years. "If SOHO keeps going for another four or five years, we`ll have a whole solar cycle`s worth of consistent data. That would be invaluable."

Scientists are looking at three main mechanisms that may explain this Sun-Earth link for our weather and climate. Firstly, the Sun`s varying ultraviolet emissions affect the production of ozone in the Earth`s atmosphere, changing our ozone layer, and affecting the large-scale circulation of air. Secondly, the solar wind`s gusts affect the electrical properties of the Earth`s upper atmosphere which somehow affects the lower layers of the atmosphere. Thirdly, during the solar minimum, the solar wind is weaker which enables galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) to enter the Earth`s atmosphere more easily. GCRs are particles that are heavier and more energetic than those carried by the solar wind and are accelerated much farther away in space. Scientists believe that the movement of GCRs, which is influenced by the solar wind, generates conditions that promote the formation of low-altitude clouds. The significance of each of these mechanisms is as yet unknown, and scientists also do not know if the mechanisms are interrelated. Every avenue is being explored.

ESA is currently looking at developing a network of space-weather services, which will issue space- weather information. Such information could complement the more conventional weather forecasting. It would include space-weather forecasting, a database of space-weather events, and the development of computer modelling of the physical processes involved.

"We have just issued an announcement of opportunity inviting the community to propose contributions to such a space-weather service." says Glover. Someday perhaps ESA will be able to help scientists, industry, and commerce understand and exploit the Sun`s effect on our everyday lives.

Alexi Glover | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past
28.04.2017 | National Science Foundation

nachricht Citizen science campaign to aid disaster response
28.04.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>