Holes In Sun's Corona Linked To Climate Change
PSI TECH: That has not changed. So, in terms of upcoming geophysical
changes, and their effects upon humans, these are far more significant than
Y2K, or even wars. And there will be some. And the rumors of war far more
significant. The key millenium change events, in the next couple of decades
will be loss of the ozone layer and our extremely active Sun. Remember
there is a very, I don't think that atmospheric scientists and
geophysicists realize the extreme linkage, the extremely strong linkage between the Sun
and Earth's weather. The Sun pumps Earth's ionosphere. So, if the Sun is
very active and burps out protons like never before, there's no way that
Earth's atmosphere can not be affected, and it will be. And what this will
result in, what we have been saying at PSI TECH for the last couple of years,
desiccation and extremely dry regions, drought, very heavy weather effects,
but particularly drought.
Holes In Sun's Corona Linked To Climate Change
BROOKLYN, New York, March 15, 2000 (ENS) - Human burning of fossil fuels is clearly linked to global warming, but solar winds pouring through holes in the Sun's outer layer may also be partly responsible.
A team of astronomers and climatologists has found that holes in the outermost layer of the sun - the corona - do affect the temperature of Earth's atmosphere.
"This is the first time anyone has combined these modern, reliable data sets to link solar activity and climate, said climatologist Eric Posmentier of Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus.
Coronal holes are gaps in the Sun's outer atmosphere through which the stream of hot, supersonic particles known as the solar wind pours out into space at millions of miles per hour to engulf the entire planetary system.
At Earth, this hot bath of charged particles produces the aurora borealis, interferes with electrical and radio transmissions, and may threaten passengers aboard high-flying airliners or astronauts aboard unshielded spacecraft.
The solar wind has long been suspected as an indirect contributor to climate change on Earth.
To investigate the effect of the solar wind on Earth's temperature, Posmentier and solar physicists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics worked with physicist Pius Okeke of the University of Nigeria to trace temperature variations in the Earth's lower troposphere - the region of atmosphere in which we live.
The scientists compared the Earth's atmospheric temperature with the size of the Sun's coronal holes during a 20 year period, from January 1979 to April 1998. They gathered data for the study using Microwave Sounding Unit radiometers aboard weather satellites.
They found a clear drop in the temperature of Earth's atmosphere after the Sun's magnetic field activity is most intense. At this point in the solar weather cycle, there is a dropping off of magnetic activity and an enlargement of the holes in the Sun's corona.
Posmentier and his colleagues think the connection between the solar wind and climate may be more direct. The charged particles from the Sun hitting the Earth's atmosphere may affect the extent of Earth's cloud cover. Increased cloud cover lowers temperatures on Earth.
It is also possible that the Sun's charged particles change ozone chemistry in the upper atmosphere, affecting climate dynamics.
The scientists say the charged particles hitting the Earth could come from either the Sun, or from galactic cosmic rays modulated by the solar wind, or from a combination of both sources.
Still, the percentage of the Sun's surface covered by coronal holes seems to be "a fairly accurate indicator of temperature in the Earth's troposphere over months or years," the team wrote.
Posmentier and his team note other major climate factors are also at work, complicating attempts to find relationships between Sun and Earth phenomena. For instance, in the past two decades they must take into account the warming effects of the 1997-98 El Nino and the general cooling that followed the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 which spread clouds of smoke and ash across the Pacific.
Posmentier says the new information on solar winds does not rule out the possible climate influence of human made fossil fuels, which have caused the atmosphere's carbon dioxide (CO2) levels to rise trapping the Sun's heat close to Earth.
"During some parts of the last century, as the amount of CO2 increased, the temperature increased," Posmentier explained. "I don't dispute that, and I'm not saying that CO2 can't have significant effects in the future.
"What I am saying is the data do not unambiguously support the contention that CO2 increases are the dominant cause of climate variability," he added. "There are other reasons for climate variations that are significant. In fact, we've found that the strongest correlation is the one between the area of the Sun's surface covered with holes and the globally averaged temperature of the Earth."
The team's results are reported in the February 28 issue of the journal "New Astronomy."
Support for this research came from the Mount Wilson Institute and the Electric Power Research Institute, with additional funding from the Massachusetts Space Grant Consortium, the Smithsonian Institution, the Richard C. Lounsbery Foundation, and NASA.
Today' Solar Wind velocity is 277.3 kilometers per second. A daily space weather forecast from NASA is available online at: http://www.spaceweather.com/
U.S. Faces Another Year of Drought
By Cat Lazaroff
WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2000 (ENS) - The United States is in the midst of a worsening drought following the warmest winter on record, the National Weather Service warned this week. This threat to individuals, agriculture, and industry throughout the country brought together representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Interior, as the federal government issued its first spring drought forecast.
"The news is not good," said Commerce Secretary William Daley. "The drought of 1999 remains with us in the new century - and our data indicate drought conditions are probably going to get worse before they get better."
Last year's National Weather Service (NWS) climate forecast anticipated drier conditions in the southern U.S. "This year, for the first time, we are issuing a drought forecast," said NWS Director Jack Kelly. "We are able to do this because of the advances made by the climate research community."
Several southern states experienced their driest February on record, and the spring drought outlook released Monday appears bleak.
"The La Niña pattern which has dominated the United States for the past two years has created a serious moisture deficit in many areas," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Director D. James Baker. "This could seriously impact farmers, water resource managers, navigation interests and the tourism industry. Forewarned is forearmed."
The spring drought forecast says the dry conditions are going to persist and, in some areas, intensify. Hardest hit will be southern Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia in the south, and Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana in the north central U.S.
Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman noted, "We saw last summer just what a drought can do to farmers. Looking to the future, we need to be ahead of the curve, prepared for dry weather when it comes and equipped with the mechanisms that will protect farmers and prevent widespread losses."
Drought is a serious threat to the health, well-being and economy of the nation, causing economic and social losses comparable to those of major hurricanes. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama all experienced their driest February in 106 years. Already this year wildfires have claimed 208,000 acres - almost four times the losses at this time last year. NOAA says the areas impacted by the drought of 2000 parallel the drought of 1988, which was the most costly weather disaster in history with an estimated $40 billion in losses. The average annual cost of droughts is over $6 billion.
Last summer's drought may move westward this summer, said U.S. Geological Survey Director Charles Groat. Continuing lower than normal streamflow and low groundwater levels may signal a return and worsening of last year’s drought, Groat warned.
"This is the time of year where streamflow conditions should be about normal, but in the eastern half of the country, we're anywhere but that," Groat said. "We should be seeing ground-water recharge taking place now and we're not seeing that either."
Real time streamflow data is available from the USGS at http://water.usgs.gov.
The drought is moving west, Groat said, and is clearly already into the Appalachians and the southeast. These are areas that did not receive a moisture recharge from the last year's busy hurricane season, as the eastern seaboard did. USGS scientists are also seeing near record low streamflows in the Ohio Valley, the center of the Midwest, the Lower Mississippi River Basin and into the southeast.
"Think of it as not having enough money to put into the bank," Groat said. "In some areas of the country, we don't have enough water now to put into our groundwater bank. This is the time of year we are supposed to be recharging our savings - our groundwater and reservoirs. That hasn't happened this winter and so we don't have the buffer we need when we start making withdrawals in the summer."
"When our dry summer hits, we may not have enough in savings to get through without problems," Groat continued. "We anticipate additional drought problems in the months ahead based on the low volume of surface and ground water we're seeing now."
NOAA scientists also point out drier than normal conditions mean a reduced possibility of significant river flooding this spring. However, Kelly cautions communities to be on guard against severe weather and flash flooding.