Solar Super-Storm Hit Earth 2,610 Years Ago
Enrico de Lazaro, 03/13/2019
Evidence of an enormous solar storm that struck the Earth around 2,610 years ago has been found in ice cores from Greenland.
Our Sun sometimes produces highly energetic particles, which are accelerated either by magnetic reconnection in solar flares or by shock waves associated with coronal mass ejections.
Such energetic particles then follow trajectories along the interplanetary magnetic field lines, which together with the location of the event on the Sun, determine whether these particles hit the Earth’s atmosphere.
These phenomena, called solar proton events (SPEs), represent a threat to modern society in terms of communication and navigation systems, space technologies, and commercial aircraft operations.
Evidence of such events is recorded in annually resolved natural archives, such as tree rings and ice cores (drilled samples of ice).
To learn more about SPEs, Lund University’s Professor Raimund Muscheler and his colleagues from Sweden, France, Switzerland, Korea, the UAE, and the US analyzed ice cores from Greenland.
The material contained evidence of a very powerful solar storm that occurred in 591 BC.
“If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society,” Professor Muscheler said.
It is only the third such event reliably documented and is comparable with the strongest SPE detected at 775 CE.
“We also took part in research that confirmed the existence of two other massive solar storms, using both ice cores and the annual growth rings of old trees,” Professor Muscheler explained.
“Those storms took place in 775 CE and 994 CE.”
“Even though these massive solar storms are rare, our discovery shows that they are a naturally recurring effect of solar activity,” he added.
“That’s why we must increase society’s protection again solar storms.”
The findings were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.