Communication devices, satellites, and other key aspects of 21st century technology are vulnerable to damage and disruption from solar storms produced by bursts of energy emerging from the Sun. Just as these storms represent “space weather,” their long-term trends can be considered “space climate.” NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory, which has developed methods to simulate and potentially predict long-term variation of the Sun's magnetic field and potential impacts on Earth, is proposing a Space Climate Initiative to explore how extremes of solar variability can affect us. For example:
What happens to the atmospheres of the Sun and Earth when energy from the Sun’s interior emerges only on scales too small to form sunspots? One such period of quiet sunspot activity lasted from about 1640 to 1710.
What sort of conditions below the Sun's surface are likely to foster solar superstorms with major impacts on society? The “Carrington flare,” a powerful solar storm in 1859, knocked out telegraph systems worldwide.
This effort will connect recently expanded models of processes evolving over multiple decades within the Sun to models of the impacts of solar radiation and solar storms on Earth. It will require further development of models that link magnetism in the lower solar atmosphere to the Sun’s output of radiation and charged particles. The work will be guided by comparison with comprehensive solar observations.
Primary: National Science Foundation (core funding)
Now seeking additional funding in support of research partners and project scientists
Colorado State University
New Jersey Institute of Technology
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Hawaii
University of Wisconsin