‘The big education for me is that civilisation is fragile and can be destroyed in a heartbeat' - Jeremy Brade, former peacekeeper in Sarajevo.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Do solar storms cause earthquakes?

A new (13 July) paper in Nature magazine has found a correlation between solar activity and earthquakes of a moderate magnitude (5.6) or greater. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67860-3 The study uses 20 years of satellite data about charged particles coming from the sun and relates this to medium-plus earthquakes occurring within 24 hours after a solar storm (coronal mass ejection, or CME.)

The tentative causal explanation is to do with the 'piezo-electric effect'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piezoelectricity For example, when the crystal in a cigarette lighter is compressed it emits a spark, because the mechanical force is transformed into electrical energy.


Conversely, if an electric charge is applied to the crystal, it will change shape slightly to absorb the energy; so, given that the Earth is magnetic because of what is assumed to be an iron core, if the power of a solar flare hits the planet's magnetic field then it is possible that there is some expansion or warping deep inside that returns to the surface in the form of earthquakes and volcanic activity.

This connection between the sun and the Earth's seismic activity has long been suspected by 'Dutchinse' (Michael Yuri Janitch) an American amateur earthquake analyst and predictor and the new study has excited him:

He has also previously suggested - as have some others - that a scientific program known as HAARP, which studies the effects of powerful man-made radio emissions aimed at the Earth's ionosphere (upper atmosphere) may have an effect on seismic activity and weather and may even be part of a clandestine military project. This is pooh-poohed by mainstream commentators (e.g. here), though of course it's not axiomatic that all conspiracy theories are wrong.

As it happens, the sun is unusually 'quiet' at the moment (i.e. few sunspots, flares and CMEs); and there seems to be a correlation between the sun's c. 11-year sunspot cycle and climate on Earth - these quiet periods are associated with cooler weather - there was a particularly long time from c. 1645 on:

'One interesting aspect of solar cycles is that the sun went through a period of near zero sunspot activity from about 1645 to 1715.  This period of sunspot minima is called the Maunder Minimum.  The "Little Ice Age" occurred over parts of Earth during the Maunder Minimum.'

- and the same article says times of high sunspot activity may warm the atmosphere, instead:

'There is debate within the scientific community how much solar activity can, or does affect Earth's climate.  There is research which shows evidence that Earth's climate is sensitive to very weak changes in the Sun's energy output over time frames of 10s and 100s of years.  Times of maximum sunspot activity are associated with a very slight increase in the energy output from the sun.  Ultraviolet radiation increases dramatically during high sunspot activity, which can have a large effect on the Earth's atmosphere.'

However, NASA suggests that the current scale of 'global warming' is not related to variations in the sun's radiance:

Again, it's not clear exactly how and where these temperatures were recorded, so there is still room for debate and speculation.


Paddington said...

The solid lines are the 11-year averages, to smooth the data and match the Solar sunspot cycle.

The temperature data is from land and sea stations, with the more recent years from the infra-red GISS satellite.

Sackerson said...

Yes, of course, and there are questions of consistency over time, adjustment etc. I'm not taking a position on this but as you know there's been a lot of debate about temperature data over this long period.

Paddington said...

Then just look at the last 80 years.

Sackerson said...

Not 80 years of satellite data.

Fellow blogger Mark Wadsworth explores technicalities in a way I don't understand, about the greenhouse effect, maybe you can work out an understaning with him. Example post here: http://markwadsworth.blogspot.com/2020/06/im-shelving-that-plan-for-book-on-real.html

Paddington said...

60 years of some satellite data, plus a lot of very good data from the ground. All during the Cold War, getting such data was a high priority for the military.

Sackerson said...

I'm not in a position to analyse, but there are potentially other factors that could influence results in the sites where the measurement were taken, plus some question of how the people studying them might adjust for that. If we don't retain a measure of skepticism we end up with a hockey stick and a Swedish Joan of Arc.

I shouldn't defer to the military for questions of efficiency and effectiveness - remember the cartoon of bank robbers being led away by police and the spokesman saying "The whole thing was planned like a military operation, that's why it was such a complete shambles"?

Paddington said...

Don't get sucked in to these conspiracies. The hockey stick issue is a total red herring, and the NASA data is publicly available.

It is telling that the anti-climate change voices have not been able to lay a glove on the data, and have relied on personal attacks and the like to keep going.

Paddington said...

As for the military, much of the best science from 1940-70 was done for them, since fear opens the purse strings. Most of the computer and cell phone technology was developed for them, then appropriated by industry once the bugs were worked out. It's a phenomenal argument against the conservatives who insist that 'private is always better than government'.

Sackerson said...

I don't buy into the conspiracy theories, any more than I unthinkingly subscribe to the shrill, utterly emphatic cries from the warmists and doomsters. I should like to see a critical analysis of the data, at least one I might be able to understand.

Paddington said...

You can find loads, even public access. Start with some of the videos of Potholer54, who includes links to the actual papers.

A K Haart said...

The integrity of the global temperature record is obviously problematic before 1979 satellite data, mostly due to unsurprising protocol uncertainties. I once wrote a post on my experience of running a small weather station for the Met Office and there is a useful link in that post.