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 NASA infrared view finds small areas of strength in new depression 6E
15.07.2020 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Satellite data show severity of drought summers in 2018 and 2019
13.07.2020 | GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A new path for electron optics in solid-state systems

A novel mechanism for electron optics in two-dimensional solid-state systems opens up a route to engineering quantum-optical phenomena in a variety of materials

Electrons can interfere in the same manner as water, acoustical or light waves do. When exploited in solid-state materials, such effects promise novel...

Im Focus: Electron cryo-microscopy: Using inexpensive technology to produce high-resolution images

Biochemists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have used a standard electron cryo-microscope to achieve surprisingly good images that are on par with those taken by far more sophisticated equipment. They have succeeded in determining the structure of ferritin almost at the atomic level. Their results were published in the journal "PLOS ONE".

Electron cryo-microscopy has become increasingly important in recent years, especially in shedding light on protein structures. The developers of the new...

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Concrete learns to pre-stress itself

15.07.2020 | Architecture and Construction

New lithium battery charges faster, reduces risk of device explosions

15.07.2020 | Power and Electrical Engineering

A new path for electron optics in solid-state systems

15.07.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>