A new study reveals that solar storms remove electrons from Earth’s atmosphere, an observation which goes against scientists’ expectations.
According to UPI, when a solar storm reaches Earth, the solar storm’s interaction with Earth’s magnetosphere causes a flood of charged particles and electrons to deluge the ionosphere – Earth’s outer atmosphere. Typically, this means that solar storms are expected to create an excess of electrons, rather than a dearth of them.
New research shows that, while electrons are piling up in parts of the atmosphere, solar storms actually remove electrons in large numbers from other areas.
“We made extensive measurements in connection with a specific solar storm over the Arctic in 2014, and here we found that electrons in large quantities are virtually vacuum-cleaned from areas extending over 500 to 1,000 kilometers,” Per Høeg of the Technical University of Denmark said in a statement. “It takes place just south of an area with heavy increases in electron density, known as patches.”
Researchers at DTU Space National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark are primarily concerned with discovering the ways in which solar storms affect navigation and communications systems. As for the disappearance of atmospheric electrons, researchers are still investigating how exactly the phenomenon takes place.
“There are two aspects of this research. It can both be used for a number of practical purposes, and then there is a theoretical part which is about achieving a better basic understanding of these phenomena,” Tibor Durgonics of DTU Space said.
“Our new research has enabled us to identify a number of critical factors that affect the quality of satellite-based navigation, and to assess the probability of when these factors may occur,” Durgonics said. “At a more theoretical level, we have found out that during solar storms, electrons are removed in the ionosphere, which is the opposite of what you intuitively would expect.”
The study was published in the journal Radio Science.