Answers could be blowing in the solar wind

Posted by Laura Grant on September 25, 2008
Posted in Green News

Scientists have a unique opportunity to study the effects of the solar wind on Earth’s climate, ScienceNow Daily reports. Data from the 18-year-old joint European/Nasa Ulysses mission show that at present the solar wind is blowing at the lowest intensity in the past 50 years.

This finding comes just a month before Nasa launches a new Instellar Boundary Explorer mission (IBEX), which will be able to see the effect of the weakened solar wind on the heliopause, the zone just beyond Pluto where the solar wind meets cosmic rays coming in from outside the solar system, the report says.

There have long been questions about the influence solar activity has on the Earth’s climate, particularly on cloud formation and cold spells. The Maunder Minimum, for example, was a 40-year period in the late 1600s and early 1700s when extreme cold weather in Europe was linked with a low number of observed sunspots.

The sun has a 22-year magnetic cycle and an 11-year sunspot cycle, so fluctuations in the solar wind are normal, but researchers say that the current dip is “the longest prolonged low pressure” that they have observed.

Sources: ScienceNow Daily News, National Geographic, Nasa,


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