The whole concept of solar CME impacts and atmospheric surging is controversial, this is widely agreed, however in practical terms the effects are there and are observable.
Current Observations. July 2017 ++++
July 16th, A CME – originating July 14th from sunspot AR2665 but actually impacting after that spot had drifted out of sight, at a time of zero visible sunspots – hit Earth’s magnetic field, sparking two days of geomagnetic storms and beautiful southern auroras. The solar storm cloud also swept aside some of the cosmic rays currently surrounding Earth. Neutron monitors in the Arctic and Antarctic recorded significant decrements. For instance, these data from the Bartol Research Institute show a nearly 8% drop in cosmic ray neutrons reaching the South Pole
This is a “Forbush Decrease”. Lately, cosmic rays around Earth have been intensifying as the solar cycle plunges toward minimum. The CME of July 16th reversed that trend–but only for a few days. Solar activity has returned to low levels and cosmic rays are on the rise again.
Chile: 16th July 2017 = 280,000 lose power in first Santiago snowfall for 20 years. Up to five centimetres come down in the city’s first snowfall for decades, causing havoc in the Chilean capital. Worst since 1970’s according to some reports.
June 2017 ++++ Much has been said about the mesospheric ‘Heat Wave’ of early June this year. (http://news.spaceweather.com/mystery-of-the-missing-noctilucent-clouds/) Checking through the records we find that immediately preceding this event, on 27th /28th May, we recorded a sudden, strong, G3 storm originating from a CME – (https://www.spaceweatherlive.com/en/news/view/280/20170528-strong-g3-geomagnetic-storm) This gave a sharp spike in the Ap record (Carrington Rotation CR2191)(http://eng.sepc.ac.cn/ApIndex.php ). Was this short sharp impact enough to cause an upper atmospheric ‘Tidal Surge’ giving rise to the mesospheric phenomenon observed? The link is not definite but too close to be entirely coincidental.
Despite the lack of sunspots, the sun is active today. SOHO (the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) has observed two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on June 11th, a faint one on the sun’s western limb and a bright one on the sun’s eastern limb: NOAA analysts are working to determine if either of these solar storm clouds will affect Earth in the days ahead.
Throughout May and early June, solar activity has been subdued. A single sharp spike in the Ap index at the end of May, otherwise very flat. There has been little to cause the atmospheric profiles to advance. Weather conditions in northern Europe are perhaps best described as ‘Disappointing.’ for late spring early summer.
May 2017 ++++ A snowstorm described as the most severe late-season snowstorm in 42 years has impacted Denver, Colorado and mountain West regions.
April 2017 ++++
Solar activity has again been characterised by steadily declining sunspot activity as we come off the peak of cycle 24, however this has been countered by significant solar wind activity from some large repetitive coronal holes with a corresponding upsurge in Ap index readings.
Upper atmosphere has remained fairly stable with the profile being shallow and broad allowing for surface level low pressure tracks to be indistinct and variable. This has led to some ‘Deep Loop’ behaviour giving unusually late frosts and prolonged dry periods in some areas.
After a “catastrophic” late spring frost hit the English countryside last week, wine growers say at least half of this year’s grape harvest has been wiped out.
According to the BBC, the chief executive of Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey, England, said about 75 percent of the buds were killed by the frost.
March 2017 ++++
The first week of March was characterised by small inactive sunspots but some steady Kp index activity peaking at 5-6 (stormy) but averaging 3-4. This quickly died away to a blank sun with zero sunspot count and little Kp activity (0-2) with no large coronal holes on the Earth facing side.
This was coincident with a deep southward loop in the jet stream flow developing over eastern USA resulting in the development and sharp intensification of storm ‘Stella’ – the term ‘Bombogenesis’ became fashionable – giving a major dump of snow and some very high winds over north eastern states for a few days.
Storm ‘Stella’ …
January / February 2017 +++ The ‘Deep Swing’ looped structure of the atmosphere is dramatically evident at present, with very heavy snow reported in upstate New York, storm ‘Helena’ giving rise to some very cold temperatures and snow as far south as Atlanta GA, ( Atlanta airport reportedly suffering significant disruption) while temperatures in Moscow were as low as -30C. Very cold temperatures have been reported over much of eastern Europe with heavy snow as far south as Turkey and the Greek Islands. At the same time, eastern Atlantic areas around the UK have been relatively warm. Heavy rain, wind and even snow in southern Spain associated with the cold loop damaged the food crop sufficiently to lead to rationing of produce in supermarkets in UK and Northern Europe.
Examining the Ap index, we can see the spike over the last few months of the year seemingly running contrary to the rapid decline in Sunspot and Radio Flux activity. Even in December, this remained relatively high. It would seem evident that the general decline in solar activity is allowing the atmospheric contraction to move the continental landmass loops in the upper atmosphere profile unusually far south, while the energy input from the coronal holes, influencing the Ap values, after initially delaying southward movement of continental profiles late summer early autumn, has been sufficient to support the positioning of the oceanic portion of the profile during the winter months contrasting sharply with the cold loops over continental areas.
BEST EVER POLAR STRATOSPHERIC CLOUDS: Around the Arctic Circle, observers are reporting an outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs).
These clouds are newsworthy because normally the stratosphere has no clouds at all. Home to the ozone layer, the stratosphere is arid and almost always transparent.
PSCs are a sign of very cold temperatures in the stratosphere. The clouds are made of ice. Indeed, that is the source of their remarkable color: High-altitude sunlight shining through tiny ice particles ~10µm across produce a bright iridescent glow. For ice crystals to form in the very dry stratosphere, temperatures must drop to around -85º C.
SUNSPOTS VANISH, SPACE WEATHER CONTINUES: As 2017 begins, one thing is clear. Sunspots are vanishing. So far, the sunspot number has been zero almost every day: Jan. 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th. A close look at today’s sun reveals no dark cores at all:
The increasingly-blank face of the sun is a herald of Solar Minimum. Sunspot numbers rise and fall with an ~11-year period, slowly oscillating between Solar Max and Solar Min. In 2017, the pendulum is swinging toward minimum.
Contrary to popular belief, space weather does not stop when sunspots vanish. The last few nights are proof: Auroras have been raging around the Arctic Circle. The cause of the display is a solar wind stream flowing from a large hole in the sun’s atmosphere. Such “coronal holes” are common during solar minimum. No sunspots? No problem.
In fact, a lot of interesting things happen during solar minimum. For instance, as sunspots vanish, the extreme ultraviolet output of the sun decreases. This causes the upper atmosphere of Earth to cool and collapse. With less air “up there” to cause orbital decay, space junk accumulates around our planet.
Also during solar minimum, the heliosphere shrinks, bringing interstellar space closer to Earth. Galactic cosmic rays penetrate the inner solar system with relative ease. Indeed, a cosmic ray surge is already underway. Goodbye sunspots, hello deep-space radiation.
(courtesy = http://www.spaceweather.com/ )
December 2016 ++ The attached image, ‘Coronal Holes’ Gives us a good explanation for the upswing in the Ap index (qv)noted over the last few months –
We can see that a large ‘Coronal Hole’ developed on the surface of the sun in late July, expanded to a maximum over September and October before declining towards November and December. This had the effect of giving the Earth a good ‘dousing’ with solar wind, rather like a garden hose spraying the planet every 28 days as the sun rotated. Whilst the energy injected via the solar wind into the magnetosphere and the upper atmosphere was not large, it was sufficient to cause enough expansion to effectively delay, and in some areas stall, the southward movement of the atmospheric structure. This had the effect of prolonging the late summer, early autumn conditions, giving the reported extended drought in southern USA and the mild ‘Indian Summer’ conditions in UK. Once this has decayed, and normal southward drift of the atmospheric profiles resumes, we can expect a return to the usual colder winter conditions.
November 2016 ++ “Mid August has never seen such cold” ….The last few months have provided some very interesting conditions: In Germany, during August, there were reports of unusual degrees of cold –
Date: 13/08/16 P. Gosselin
Yesterday many locations saw new all-time mid August records set for the lowest “high” recorded, with many places failing to reach 15°C. Meteorologists called the cold for this time of year “unusual”. A number of German stations recorded surface frost, “and that in the middle of peak summer” and that “it was colder than Christmas day 2015”.
Other areas, such as Southern USA, experienced periods of prolonged drought through September to November.
Looking at the upper atmosphere, we find that the Jet Stream structure adopted the ‘Deep Swing’ structure, with the two principle streams interacting as a single ‘looped’ structure rather than two distinct flows. This allowed warm tropical air to be thrown unusually far north, while simultaneously, cold air was dragged unusually far south in other areas. This structure remained stable, again unusually, well into October and November giving an early onset of winter cold in Europe, while south western USA experienced a prolongation of late summer/early autumn dryness giving extensive drought and widespread forest fires in Tennessee and Georgia.
If we look for answers in the usual Solar Cycle Progression charts, we find that ‘Sunspot Number’ and ‘Radio Flux’ charts continued to show a rapid decline, implying little energetic impact in the upper atmosphere, while the Ap index showed a contrary sharp increase, implying that the Solar Wind was providing enough energy not only to give rise to some excellent auroral displays but also to effectively ‘stall’ and delay the southward movement of the upper atmosphere profile.
JUNE 2016 ++HEADLINES A second round of torrential rain and flooding is expected to cause chaos during the evening rush hour after parts of the South East and London endured a deluge of water this morning.
Sky News weather presenter Nazaneen Ghaffar said 6,000 lightning strikes had been reported in the UK and northern France overnight.
Sunspot number, together with other primary indices, including the AP index, continued to decline sharply over the month of June 2016
SUNSPOTS VANISHING, AGAIN: For the second time this month, the solar disk is blank–no sunspots. This image of the sun taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 23rd shows zero dark cores:
What does this mean? The solar cycle is like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between periods of high and low sunspot number every 11 years. Today’s blank sun is a sign that the pendulum is swinging toward low sunspot numbers. In other words, Solar Minimum is coming.
Forecasters expect the next Solar Minimum to arrive in 2019-2020. Between now and then, there will be lots of spotless suns. At first, the blank stretches will be measured in days; later in weeks and months. When the sunspot cycle reaches its nadir, a whole year could go by without sunspots.
However, don’t expect space weather to go away. Solar Minimum brings many interesting changes. For instance, as the extreme ultraviolet output of the sun decreases, the upper atmosphere of Earth cools and collapses. This allows space junk to accumulate around our planet. Also, the heliosphere shrinks, bringing interstellar space closer to Earth. Galactic cosmic rays penetrate the inner solar system–and Earth–with relative ease.
Indeed, a cosmic ray surge is already underway . Cosmic rays can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. This exposure will increase as Solar Minimum deepens.
Headlines …. May 2016
“Lightning strikes in Europe: One killed and many injured.”
“100 Year Floods, France and Germany”
Tuesday, May 31 ….. while Météo-France indicates that the month of May 2016 in Paris was the wettest since 1873 and that “the Seine is going up, approaching the level of the flood of 2006,” the concern is even stronger……
The continued rapid decline in overall solar activity was accompanied by a parallel decline in the AP index, reversing the increase noted over the latter end of 2015. The ‘steering level’ over Europe and the associated pressure and thermal profiles struggled to make northward progress with a southward moving ‘bubble’ developing over the European continent. This allowed a wide low pressure zone to become established over Europe. The rather slack gradient profiles meant that this low was not particularly intense but was associated with significant rainfall which, because of the stationary nature of the structure, was prolonged and persistent causing serious flooding over France, and Germany.
Analysis, by Clive Mills-Hicks, Meteorologist, Met Office
The storms developed because a very warm and humid air mass covered mainland north-west Europe at the same time as the air higher up in the atmosphere was becoming colder, creating a very “unstable” atmosphere.
This instability manifested itself in the storms which developed extremely rapidly once the air had warmed up sufficiently.
Over much of the area, the temperature climbed to 25 Celsius, more than enough to trigger the storm clouds. Such storms produce intense rainfall, hail, and numerous lightning strikes and it is typical for them to be at their most widespread and intense in the early afternoon. They are not unusual over the Continent during the summer, although today’s outbreaks were perhaps more widespread than normal.
Further storms are likely over Europe on Sunday: the areas expected to see the storms are southern and eastern Germany, the Czech Republic, and the western half of Poland.
In addition to the widespread nature of Saturday’s storms, the fact that they came at a weekend, and during otherwise fine, warm weather, made it more likely that they would have an impact on people
APRIL 26 2016
Headlines = 25th April 2016 ‘….. Arctic End to April as Snow and Frost Forecast ….’ A cold week is forecast with many areas seeing highs of just 7C – around four degrees below the average for this time of year …….. Large parts of Wales, England and Scotland are on alert for snow and ice over the coming days as another cold blast from the Atlantic sweeps in…’ ‘…Snow, Sleet And Rain As Winter Hangs On …’ ‘…The North of England has been blanketed, with as much as 3.9ins (10cm) of snow reported on high ground….’
Those indices that allow us to monitor geomagnetic influences on the upper atmosphere, which showed a significant upswing in 2015, declined sharply in early 2016. The consequent influence on upper atmosphere gradient profiles allowed a sharp return to winter positions allowing surface weather systems to follow more southerly paths over Europe. This gave an increase in easterly and northerly wind flow resulting in decreased temperatures and the late snow noted.
Headlines = Saturday 13 February 2016 = “The polar vortex is sending temperatures plummeting in the US Midwest and Northeast this weekend, says the National Weather Service.” “Wind chill warnings and lake effect snow warnings are in effect for these areas, with wind chill readings dropping below -30 degrees by Saturday night.”
Comment =The above were press headlines. The motive forces behind this phenomenon are fairly well understood and documented. Over the current solar cycle, solar activity has been markedly reduced and is currently in unusually fast decline. Against this trend, there have been a number of geomagnetic indices that have shown an upswing over the past year; this resulted in a delay in the seasonal movement of upper atmosphere gradients which, twisted by ocean/landmass influences, effectively stalled in autumnal positions and experienced significant compression. The result was the repetitive storm impacts over northern UK combined with the ‘Snowzilla’ phenomenon in the US. Those indices, over December and January, reversed allowing, after the usual delay, reversion to more normal latitudes firing the storms at southern UK and allowing the cold influence to descend over the US. If this situation continues movement to spring conditions could be delayed noticeably. The present situation should be viewed in the same frame as the recent winters when the UK was depicted snow covered from top to bottom.
The following Items Were Published on a Public Forum on the Dates Shown.
December 10th 2014
Quote from November 10th ….. ‘…unusually early and heavy snow in eastern USA’ …
‘…. The upper atmosphere patterns have since made rapid progress southward towards winter positions….’
’ ….Snow cover in both Eastern US and Siberia is building sharply …’
The structure allowed early, rapid southward progress over the continental land masses dragging cold air down over eastern US and Eurasian continents while pushing warm air northwards over the eastern half of the oceans – forming the classic polar ‘figure eight’ unusually early. Some US states were buried under 6ft of snow by mid November, well ahead of normal.
In Solar terms, it has again been a case of ‘much threatened-little materialised’. There has been sufficient solar activity and solar wind to give some magnificent auroral displays but not enough to strongly affect earthly atmospheric structures. Some flexing was noted, but nothing serious.
The general trend is an ‘Equator-ward’ drift, cold being dragged further south while the relationship between land and ocean twists the structure causing warm air to be thrown unusually far north, giving higher surface temperatures in areas on the eastern side of an ocean mass. This is consistent with the general reduction in overall solar activity that has been noted.
November 10th 2014
Quote From Oct 9th … ‘, an upsurge would tend to halt the progress and cause the weather patterns to repeat.’
Solar activity remained briefly quiet until a huge sunspot appeared – the biggest for 25years and one of the biggest in the last 100 years; this fired out numerous large flares towards the Earth, causing intense ionisation of the upper atmosphere but failing to produce a significant CME. A ‘Hyder Flare’ around the beginning of November missed Earth completely.
Meteorologically there was little reaction other than the gentle ‘easing’ of the profiles which served to retain and extend the September situation into October, causing the existing structures to repeat as predicted; the warmth in western Europe counterbalanced by unusually early and heavy snow in eastern USA. The upper atmosphere patterns have since made rapid progress southward towards winter positions. Snow cover in both Eastern US and Siberia is building sharply.
Shortly after that very large sunspot disappeared around the rim of the solar disc it was replaced by a new large area of threatening activity. If this produces the level of CME impacts that are threatened as it turns towards Earth, the present upper level profiles will compress, potentially increasing the intensity of weather systems impacting Western Europe and causing repetition. If it fails to do so, southward movement will continue allowing surface patterns to transit along more southerly lines increasing the potential for more northerly and easterly airflow across UK/W.Europe.
October 9th 2014
Quote from Aug 9 … the effect of a CME impact … is to cause a short term ‘heave’ in the upper atmosphere pressure and/or thermal gradients …..’
Quote from Sep 9 …. ‘a flurry of CME activity’….. ‘potential for stronger earth directed activity’….
Additional to earlier activity, a pair of strong CME’s impacted on 11/12 Sept giving excellent auroral displays with a further impact from a magnetic filament CME on the 16th.
The 11th/12th impacts also gave rise to a ‘Forbush Decrease’(*) of notable amplitude.
Contrasting the upper atmosphere structure over the second half of September with that of early/mid August, we find that the profile reverted to a ‘summer’ layout over Europe and has remained relatively stable in that condition, whilst that of August would be more closely associated with late autumn. The profile for September this year is in fact identifiably further North than has be noted in recent years although drifting slowly southwards.
There are currently signs of a significant increase in solar activity with further potential for increased geoeffective impact.
September 9th, 2014
As a noted coincidence, a science station in the Antarctic this year recorded the coldest June (midwinter) average temperature ever recorded at that location. Similarly a weather station in Northern Ireland has recorded the coldest August night temperature ever recorded at that location. There have similarly been several ‘extreme lows’ recorded across North America during early August. The reported ‘likelihood’ of a Pacific ‘El Niño’ has closely followed observed solar activity
Solar activity continued low although a flurry of CME activity occurred during late August and intensified early September, the geoeffective impact of which gave rise to some excellent auroral activity and could be considered ‘light but increasing’ meteorologically. There has been some strong farside activity and there is potential for stronger earth directed activity.
Upper atmosphere gradients over Europe were well to the south of traditional averages following the solar quiet period early August but returned northward following the increase in activity. They are currently well to the north although they are steepening and starting to drift southward again. Early snow over Canada counter-balances the improved late summer in Europe but perhaps presages winter activity if solar quiet returns.
August 9, 2014
Solar activity continues very quiet. There has been some increase since the ‘total blank’ but this has been weak with no geo-effective impact.
There are a number of possible consequences to the present scenario. Firstly there is the potential for a slow decline in the overall energy content of the thermosphere arising from the decline in total solar irradiance – a normal entropic function. This would take place over a number of years and would be implicit upon reduced irradiance continuing. Secondly, the effect of a CME impact, or more importantly a series of such, is to cause a short term ‘heave’ in the upper atmosphere pressure and/or thermal gradients, occurring perhaps 2-4 weeks after the impact – such as we saw early 2014. This can give a ‘repeat’ effect to weather patterns. The absence of any such impact may allow those gradients to follow seasonal variations more smoothly and rapidly, giving potentially earlier and sharper seasonal discrimination. The big risk is for a very strong CME, similar to the ‘Carrington event’ or to that of 23 July 2012 (although that latter missed Earth completely – fortunately). The consequences of that are best described as ‘Significant’.
Pressure and thermal gradients in the upper atmosphere are steepening and starting their drift towards their winter positions. Turbulence associated with Atlantic low pressure areas will increase.
July 18, 2014
We are going through a period of solar activity – or rather the lack of it – that has never been experienced in modern times. The years 2008/9/10/11 were the longest, quietest period of sunspot inactivity in modern history. The peak we should now be going through has also been the quietest and potentially shortest we have experience of and indeed the sun in the last few days has gone completely blank, although the return of activity should be expected
What this represents in terms of earthly weather activity, we simply don’t have the scientific knowledge to assess. The earth takes periods of weeks to months to several years to react to any given solar incident or activity and even then any such reaction may be beyond analysis in any given location as there are simply too many variables involved.
Analysts talk of polar oscillations, pacific ‘El Nino’ and ocean temperature variations; all of these factors are valid but they should all be considered common symptoms, interactive and interdependent but symptomatic rather than causal.
What we can say is that coming years – especially the winters – could be ‘Very Interesting’.
On Sept. 12th 2014, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field, igniting the most intense geomagnetic storm of the year. An investigative helium balloon was launched into the stratosphere to see what effect the storm was having on Earth’s upper atmosphere. It was expected to measure more radiation than usual. Instead, it measured less. The plot showed a sharp drop in high energy radiation on Sept. 12th compared to previous flights in May, June, and August:
What caused this counterintuitive drop? Answer: When the CME swept past Earth, it swept aside many of the cosmic rays that normally surround our planet. This effect is called a “Forbush Decrease,” after American physicist Scott F. Forbush who first described it.
Wherever CMEs go, cosmic rays are deflected by magnetic fields inside the CME. Forbush decreases have been observed on Earth and in Earth orbit onboard Mir and the ISS. The Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft have experienced them, too, beyond the orbit of Neptune.
The CME was long gone on Sept. 28th when the experiment was repeated to find radiation levels returning to pre-storm values.
The amount of pure energy involved in the deflection and released by return to ‘normality’ is huge and inevitably has its impact when reflected within the atmospheric structure.