An Ancient Solar Storm Revealed by Greenland's Ice

Mindy Sparks
March 15, 2019

The team of scientists, which examined the chemicals preserved in Greenland ice sheet, concluded that the storm was almost 10 times stronger than anything detected in past 70 years of modern measurements. "Our event was about 10 times stronger than any high-energy event observed during the past 70 years", Muscheler told Newsweek. Both the Quebec and Malmö incidents show how deeply massive solar storms can impact our technology, and how vulnerable our society is to them today.

The scientists calculate that the storm sent at least 10bn protons per square centimetre into the atmosphere.

In a study published in PNAS, Raimund Muscheler from Sweden's Lund University and colleagues found evidence of another huge solar storm on the same scale as the one that hit in A.D.

New research indicates that solar storms can be even more powerful than measurements have shown so far via direct observations. The material appears to be the radioactive remnants of a solar storm that battered the atmosphere.

The scientists examined ice from two core samples taken from Greenland. When high energy particles slam into the stratosphere, they collide with atomic nuclei to create radioactive isotopes of elements such as carbon, beryllium and chlorine. The discovery means that the worst-case scenarios used in risk planning for serious space weather events underestimate how powerful solar storms can be, he said.

"There are high-energy solar energetic particle events, or solar proton events", Muscheler told Paul Rincon at BBC News.

Researchers have also previously found similar events dated to 774-775 AD and 993-994 AD.

It remains unclear how these ancient proton storms compared with the Carrington Event, since estimates of the number of protons from the Carrington Event are very uncertain, Muscheler said. It seems that this is the third event of this type which has been identified at this point.

If you want to find out more about this topic, you can search online for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and you will find the topic there.

Although more research is needed to see how much damage such eruptions might inflict, this work suggests "these enormous events are a recurring feature of the sun - we now have three big events during the past 3,000 years", Muscheler said. A new study has made a decision to analyze ice cores (samples of ice which are recovered from glaciers and zones where the ice is ancient) as they aimed to learn more about the phenomenon and how it can influence the world. "The challenge will be to find the smaller ones that probably still exceed anything we measured in recent decades".

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