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Ancient Ice Reveals Mysterious Solar Storm – ScienceDaily

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Through analysis of ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, a research team led by Lund University in Sweden has found evidence of an extreme solar storm that occurred around 9 200 years. What intrigues the researchers is that the storm occurred during one of the sun’s quieter phases – during which our planet is generally thought to be less exposed to such events.

The sun is a prerequisite for life on Earth. But our life-giving companion can also cause trouble. When there is high activity on the surface of the sun, more energy is released, which can give rise to geomagnetic storms. This in turn can cause power outages and communication disruptions.

It is difficult to predict solar storms. They are currently thought to be more susceptible during an active phase of the sun, or solar maximum, during the so-called sunspot cycle. However, the new study published in Nature Communication shows that this is not always the case for very large storms.

“We studied drill cores from Greenland and Antarctica and discovered traces of a massive solar storm that hit the Earth during one of the sun’s passive phases around 9,200 years ago,” says Raimund. Muscheler, a geology researcher at Lund University.

Researchers scoured drill core for peaks of radioactive isotopes beryllium-10 and chlorine-36. These are produced by high-energy cosmic particles that reach Earth and can be stored in ice and sediment.

“It is a long and costly analysis work. Therefore, we were pleasantly surprised when we found such a peak, indicating a previously unknown giant solar storm in relation to low solar activity,” says Raimund Muscheler.

If a similar solar storm were to occur today, it could have devastating consequences. In addition to power outages and radiation damage to satellites, this could pose a hazard to air traffic and astronauts as well as a breakdown of various communication systems.

“These huge storms are currently not sufficiently considered in risk assessments. It is of the utmost importance to analyze what these events could mean for today’s technology and how we can protect ourselves,” concludes Raimund Muscheler.

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Material provided by Lund University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.