• Solar Storms Can Drain El

    From Mike Powell@1:2320/105.1 to All on Tue Apr 11 17:44:00 2017
    This message was from BAALKE@EARTHLINK.NET to ALL,
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    ------------------------- https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6804

    Solar Storms Can Drain Electrical Charge Above Earth
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    April 10, 2017

    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 global navigation satellite system, or GNSS, stations as well as
    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 coronal mass ejection, 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 magnetic field. 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 geomagnetic storm was a result of two powerful Earth-directed
    CMEs. The storm initially produced patches of extra electrons in the
    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 storm." 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.

    JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.

    News Media Contact
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

    Written by Carol Rasmussen
    NASA's Earth Science News Team


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