The Solar Wind Increases Lightning Strikes on Earth

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What produces thunderstorms? Earlier study displayed that one reason is intergalactic rays from space, produced by supernovas. But a new paper indicates that something much nearby and dominant is also blamable: solar wind from our own Parent Star Sun.

Well firstly, what the solar actually wind is. It's an uninterrupted stream of particles from the Sun, and it tends to pick up when the Sun releases solar flares. These flares are more common when sunspots are in larger numbers on the star's surface, which occurs when the Sun's magnetic action rises. The Sun's activity decreases and increases on an 11-year cycle, and 2014 occurs to be near to the peak of one of those 11-year cycles.

"Our main result is that we have found evidence that high-speed solar wind streams can increase lightning rates.” said chief author Chris Scott in a statement “This may be an actual increase in lightning or an increase in the magnitude of lightning, lifting it above the detection threshold of measurement instruments."

Artist's impression of the solar wind from the sun (left) interacting with Earth's magnetosphere (right). Credit: NASA

The study is constructed on UK Met Office lightning strike data in the United Kingdom from 2000 to 2005, more precisely whatever that occurred within 500 kilometers (310 miles) of central England. The team also used data from NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), a spacelab that observes the solar wind.

The scientists discovered "a considerable and major rise in lightning rates" for up to 40 days after solar winds hit Earth's atmosphere. The causes behind this rise in lightning rates are still poorly understood, but the researchers say this might be as the air's electrical charge alters as the particles hit the atmosphere.

If this is confirmed, this might give a new shade to weather analysts who could integrate info about solar wind streams that are being observed by spacecraft. This stream of particles would varies with the sun's 27-day spin, and scientists hope this could develop long-range forecasts.

You can Read further about the paper in Environmental Research Letters.

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