A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Solar Wind bombardment “worse than we thought”, but we *know* particles at 800km/s have No effect on our climate

Solar Wind, Earths magnetosphere.  Image: NASA

The Solar Wind is a torrent of space weather cruising past at 500 — 800 kilometers per second which is around 1.5 million miles per hour or, if you prefer, Mach 2,000.*  It’s so powerful it erodes rocks on Mars, ejects particles up high and creates a kind of atmosphere of tiny rock particles which we can study. Then it blows that Martian atmosphere away.

In this new research people realized it was not just the rain of tiny high-speed protons fritzing Mars at 800 km per second that were carving up the rocks — the main role was from the heavy and highly charged  He2+. (Now there’s a molecule you don’t see too often).

You might think that a variable torrent of charged particles that are constantly changing speed and direction might have an impact on our atmosphere, but you’d be wrong (or at least, politically incorrect). On Earth the solar wind “just causes the northern lights”. How do we know? We’ve got climate models. In all known GCMs the total global forcing for solar wind is “zero”. Must be true.

Thus and verily the IPCC can conclude that a flow of [...]

The Solar Wind may be changing the surface temperature of the North Atlantic

Could it be the missing key? The solar wind blasts charged particles, electrons, stuff, towards Earth at 500 km a second  — that’s one to two million miles per hour. It speeds up, slows down and shifts in direction as it travels past the Earth and has its own magnetic field. The wind speed varies from 300 km per second up to 800 and the impact on Earth changes with our magnetic field and our seasons. You might think this kind of monster flow might have some effect on our climate. But modern climate models are 95% certain that none of this matters. Only crazy people would think that a electrons flying past at a million miles per hour could “do something” to our stratosphere, or ozone, or cloud cover.

Curiously, a recent study shows that when the solar wind is fastest, the North Atlantic is coldest on the surface. The NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) appears to correlate. The effect is strongest in the northern winter months. Notably the modern expert climate models fail to predict any of the cycles within our major ocean basins. How immature is our understanding of space weather?

Could changes in the solar wind be [...]