However, the most difficult events to predict are the largest and most damaging storms—hurricanes on Earth and extreme, rare storm events on the Sun. Thus, it is inevitable that the Sun will continue to surprise us. Suppose you observe a major solar flare while astronauts are orbiting Earth. Considerable evidence shows that between the years and , the number of sunspots, even at sunspot maximum, was much lower than it is now.
Maunder in ; it is now called the Maunder Minimum. The variation in the number of sunspots over the past three centuries is shown in Figure Besides the Maunder Minimum in the seventeenth century, sunspot numbers were somewhat lower during the first part of the nineteenth century than they are now; this period is called the Little Maunder Minimum. When the number of sunspots is high, the Sun is active in various other ways as well, and, as we will see in several sections below, some of this activity affects Earth directly.
For example, there are more aurora l displays when the sunspot number is high. Historical accounts also indicate that auroral activity was abnormally low throughout the several decades of the Maunder Minimum. The Maunder Minimum was a time of exceptionally low temperatures in Europe—so low that this period is described as the Little Ice Age. This coincidence in time caused scientists to try to understand whether small changes in the Sun could affect the climate on Earth.
There is clear evidence that it was unusually cold in Europe during part of the seventeenth century. The River Thames in London froze at least 11 times, ice appeared in the oceans off the coasts of southeast England, and low summer temperatures led to short growing seasons and poor harvests. Other small changes in climate like the Little Ice Age have occurred and have had their impacts on human history.
For example, explorers from Norway first colonized Iceland and then reached Greenland by From there, they were able to make repeated visits to the northeastern coasts of North America, including Newfoundland, between about and The ships of the time did not allow the Norse explorers to travel all the way to North America directly, but only from Greenland, which served as a station for further exploration.
Most of Greenland is covered by ice, and the Greenland station was never self-sufficient; rather, it depended on imports of food and other goods from Norway for its survival. When a little ice age began in the thirteenth century, voyaging became very difficult, and support of the Greenland colony was no longer possible. The last-known contact with it was made by a ship from Iceland blown off course in When European ships again began to visit Greenland in , the entire colony there had disappeared.
The estimated dates for these patterns of migration follow what we know about solar activity.
Solar activity was unusually high between and , which includes the time when the first European contacts were made with North America. Activity was low from to and there was a little ice age, which was about the time regular contact with North America and between Greenland and Europe stopped.
There is no satisfactory model that can explain how a reduction in solar activity might cause cooler temperatures on Earth. An alternative possibility is that the cold weather during the Little Ice Age was related to volcanic activity. Volcanoes can eject aerosols tiny droplets or particles into the atmosphere that efficiently reflect sunlight. Satellite data show that the energy output from the Sun during a solar cycle varies by only about 0. We know of no physical process that would explain how such a small variation could cause global temperature changes.
The level of solar activity may, however, have other effects.
This large variation can affect the chemistry and temperature structure of the upper atmosphere. This, in turn, could change the circulation patterns of winds aloft and, hence, the tracks of storms. There is some recent evidence that variations in regional rainfall correlate better with solar activity than does the global temperature of Earth. An Introduction to Space Weather introduces the relationship between the Sun and Earth, and shows how it impacts our technological society. One of the first undergraduate textbooks on space weather aimed at non-science majors, it uses the practical aspects of space weather to introduce space physics and give students an understanding of the Sun-Earth relationship.
Definitions of important terms are given throughout the text. Key concepts, supplements, and review questions are given at the end of each chapter to help students understand the materials covered. An Introduction to Space Weather is ideal for introductory space physics courses. What is space weather? The variable sun 3. The heliosphere 4.
ECE Space Weather: The Solar Wind and Magnetosphere | ECE | Virginia Tech
Earth's space environment 5. Earth's upper atmosphere 6. The technological impacts of space storms 7. The perils of living in space 8. Other space weather phenomena Appendices References Historical bibliography Index. Mark B. His primary research interests are magnetospheric and heliospheric plasma physics, and pre-college space science education and outreach activities. Newsletter Google 4. Help pages.
Prothero Michael J. Benton Richard Fortey View All. This textbook is ideal for introductory space physics courses. One of the first undergraduate textbooks on space weather for non-science majors, it introduces the relationship between the Sun and Earth, and shows how it impacts our technological society. It contains definitions of important terms, key concepts, supplements, and review questions, and is ideal for introductory space physics courses.
Mark B. His primary research interests are magnetospheric and heliospheric plasma physics, and pre-college space science education and outreach activities. Convert currency.
An introduction to Space Weather
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