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Mysterious solar storm revealed by ancient ice


A study team has discovered evidence of a severe solar storm that happened around 9,200 years ago by analyzing ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. What perplexes the experts is that the storm occurred during one of the sun’s quieter periods, when our planet is thought to be less vulnerable to such phenomena.

The sun is required for life to exist on Earth. Our life-giving partner, however, may also be a source of difficulties. When there is a lot of activity on the sun’s surface, more energy is emitted, which may cause geomagnetic storms. As a result, there may be power outages and communication problems.

It’s tough to predict solar storms. They are thought to be more probable during the sun’s active phase, or solar maximum, during the so-called sunspot cycle. However, according to a recent research published in Nature Communications, this isn’t necessarily the case for really severe storms.

“We analyzed drill cores from Greenland and Antarctica and found indications of a large solar storm that struck Earth around 9,200 years ago during one of the sun’s quiet periods,” explains Raimund Muscheler, a geology researcher at Lund University.

The researchers looked for peaks of the radioactive isotopes beryllium-10 and chlorine-36 in the drill cores. High-energy cosmic particles that reach Earth produce these, which can be preserved in ice and sediment.

“This is a time-consuming and costly analytical process. As a result, we were ecstatic to discover such a peak, suggesting a previously undiscovered large solar storm associated with low solar activity “Raimund Muscheler agrees.

If a comparable solar storm occurred now, the results may be disastrous. It might endanger aviation traffic and astronauts, as well as cause the failure of numerous communication systems, in addition to power outages and radiation damage to satellites.

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“These massive storms are presently underrepresented in risk evaluations. It is critical to consider what these occurrences may entail for today’s technology and how we might safeguard ourselves “Raimund Muscheler sums up.

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