Posts Tagged ‘geomagnetic storm’

Geomagnetic Storms Subside – 01 January 2016

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The geomagnetic activity caused by the passage of the 28 Dec coronal mass ejection has began to subside and the near-Earth solar wind environment is returning to normal levels.

A positive polarity coronal hole in the northern hemisphere is expected to cause periods of active geomagnetic field activity (Kp=4) on 02-03 Jan.

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New Year’s Geomagnetic Storm

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NEW YEAR’S GEOMAGNETIC STORM: 2016 began with an explosion–not only of fireworks, but also auroras. On Jan. 1st, a G2-class geomagnetic storm sparked bright lights around the poles as revelers around the world were ringing in the New Year. In Glenfarg, Scotland, fireworks crackled against a backdrop of green:

“Our neighbours let off some fireworks for the New Year,” says photographer Stuart Walker. “They were modest compared to the organized display in Edinburgh, but looked great alongside the ongoing aurora.”

The storm was the result of a CME strike on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31 @ 00:30 UT). At first the CME’s impact had little effect. Indeed, we initially ruled it a “dud.” But as Earth moved deeper into the CME’s wake, solar wind conditions shifted to favor geomagnetic activity.

The very first sighting of auroras in 2016 may have come from Taichi Nakamura, across the International Date Line in Dunedin, New Zealand:

“It was a beautiful treat to see the auroras kick off the New Year,” says Nakamura. “The display began after midnight and kept glowing with waves and beams until morning twilight painted light over the aurora. It is summer now in New Zealand and my four year old son was delighted to come with me as it is warm even at night.”

Those were the first auroras of 2016. Ready for seconds? NOAA forecasters estimate a 75% chance of more polar geomagnetic storms on Jan. 1st, subsiding to 45% on Jan. 2nd as Earth moves through the wake of the CME. Aurora alerts: text or voice

Realtime Aurora Photo Gallery

GREEN COMET MEETS ORANGE STAR: On Jan. 1st, Comet Catalina had a close encounter with Arcturus in the early morning sky. Chris Schur of Payson AZ woke up before dawn to photograph the green comet beside the orange star:

“A really nice photo-op this morning, with the 6th magnitude comet nearly on top of Arcturus,” says Schur. “Fortunately, the comet’s tail pointed away from the all too brilliant star, and made for a stunning portrait.”

Arcturus is an orange giant star 37 light years from Earth. Comet Catalina is much closer, only 0.00001 light years from Earth. The comet gets its green color from the gases in its atmosphere–especially diatomic carbon (C2), which glows green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum of space.

Comet Catalina will remain in the neighborhood of Arcturus for the next couple of nights as it glides through the constellation Bootes. Observing tips and sky maps may be found in this article from Sky and Telescope.

Realtime Comet Photo Gallery 


Realtime Spaceweather Photo Gallery


Realtime Meteor Photo Gallery 


Realtime PSC Photo Gallery

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Geomagnetic Storms may Influence Risk of Stroke

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More strokes happen when geomagnetic storms are afoot, according to a new review of stroke literature – although it’s not clear what protective measures anyone could take, researchers said.

Geomagnetic storms happen when the Earth’s magnetic field is disturbed by solar winds or coronal mass ejections, which throw out powerful magnetic fields from the sun.

Among more than 11,000 people who had a stroke, the event was almost 20 percent more likely to happen on days with geomagnetic storms, researchers in New Zealand found.

“The results were a big surprise to us,” said lead author Dr. Valery L. Feigin of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at the School of Rehabilitation and Occupation Studies at Auckland University of Technology.

“What we were particularly surprised with was the size and consistency of the effect of geomagnetic storms on the risk of stroke occurrence, suggesting that geomagnetic storms are significant risk factors for stroke,” Feigin told Reuters Health by email.

The storms can last hours to days, and when strong enough can disrupt satellites and push the aurora borealis much further south than usual, as happened this winter over the United Kingdom.

The electromagnetic upheaval also makes magnetic compasses behave erratically and in 1989, a geomagnetic storm disrupted the Quebec power grid, causing a blackout in the province that lasted nine hours.

Researchers aren’t sure, however, why the storms would be linked to stroke risk.

The review cites six large stroke studies including a total of more than 11,000 patients that took place between 1981 and 2004 in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Feigin and his colleagues considered the dates of each participant’s first stroke alongside a record of geomagnetic activity from the same time period from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For each incident of stroke, researchers compared geomagnetic activity that day with activity on eight other days when the patient did not have a stroke.

According to their results, which are published in the journal Stroke, geomagnetic storms were 19 percent more likely to occur on geomagnetic storm days than on other days.

That is a fairly significant increase in risk, Feigin said, comparing it to the stroke risk associated with taking hormone replacement therapy.

On average, people suffered strokes around age 70, but the connection to geomagnetic storms was stronger for people under age 65.

Over the course of the study, geomagnetic activity didn’t change much from year to year, but it was calmest from 1996 to 1998, which was the period of solar minima in the sun’s 11-year activity cycle, when solar flares and sunspots are least common.

Feigin pointed out that 2014 is a “solar maximum” year.

“There is preliminary evidence suggesting effects of geomagnetic storms on blood pressure increase, variations of heart rhythm and blood clotting abilities, all of which are known risk factors for stroke,” Feigin said, although that’s mostly conjecture at this point.

Earth’s magnetic field differs depending on where you are on the planet, but geomagnetic storms influence the whole magnetic field, and based on this review they seem to affect stroke risk in Europe and Australasia in the same way, he said.

“It’s a fascinating idea, at least on that level,” said Dr. James Brorson, an expert in the evaluation and treatment of stroke in the University of Chicago department of neurology. “I wasn’t aware that this was even postulated.”

A 19 percent increase in stroke risk is enough to make one sit up and take notice, but not as large as the risk increase due to smoking or high blood pressure, he said.

“The idea that geomagnetic storms influence whether or not we have a stroke almost seems like magical thinking,” he said, and it’s certainly too early for people to change their behavior based on the storms.

“Any patient of mine, I would counsel them to by no means worry about this,” Brorson told Reuters Health by phone. “It remains to be seen whether this holds up.”

Besides, he said, geomagnetic storms are not usually very predictable, and even if they were, there’s really nothing anyone can do to avoid them. The Earth’s magnetic field is everywhere, indoors and out.

Although the authors of the review suggest that people at risk for stroke could take extra precautions in magnetically turbulent times, like avoiding stress, excessive alcohol and dehydration, those are measures people should be taking all the time anyway, Brorson said.

“I don’t think that there’s practical significance now, but it’s very fascinating,” he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1o5dSnu Stroke, online April 22, 2014.

 

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Geomagnetic Storms and the Link to Suicide & Depression

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Does the Earth’s Magnetic Field Influence Suicide Rates?

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Many animals can sense the Earth’s magnetic field, so why not people, asks Oleg Shumilov of the Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems in Russia.

Shumilov looked at activity in the Earth’s geomagnetic field from 1948 to 1997 and found that it grouped into three seasonal peaks every year: one from March to May, another in July and the last in October.

Surprisingly, he also found that the geomagnetism peaks matched up with peaks in the number of suicides in the northern Russian city of Kirovsk over the same period.

Shumilov acknowledges that a correlation like this does not necessarily mean there is a causal link, but he points out that there have been several other studies suggesting a link between human health and geomagnetism.

For example, a 2006 review of research on cardiovascular health and disturbances in the geomagnetic field in the journal Surveys in Geophysics (DOI: 10.1007/s10712-006-9010-7) concluded that a link was possible and that the effects seemed to be more pronounced at high latitudes.

Twinned peaks

The review’s author, Michael Rycroft, formerly head of the European Geosciences Society, says that geomagnetic health problems affect 10 to 15% of the population.

“Others have found similar things [to Shumilov’s results] in independent sets of data,” says Rycroft. “It suggests something may be linking the two factors.”

A 2006 Australian study, for example, also found a correlation between peaks in suicide numbers and geomagnetic activity (Bioelectromagnetics, vol. 27 p 155).

Brain storms

Psychiatrists too have noticed a correlation between geomagnetic activity and suicide rates. A review of 13 years of South African data on suicides and magnetic storms in South African Psychiatry Review, vol. 6 p. 24) suggested a link.

Geomagnetic storms – periods of high geomagnetic activity caused by large solar flares – have also been linked to clinical depression.

In 1994, a study was published suggesting a 36.2% increase in the number of men admitted into hospital for depression in the second week after geomagnetic storms (British Journal of Psychiatry vol 164, p 403).

What may be the cause of the link, if there is one, remains unknown. “The intriguing correlation between geomagnetism and suicide justifies more research into its mechanism,” says Rycroft.

Environmental cue?

“The most plausible explanation for the association between geomagnetic activity and depression and suicide is that geomagnetic storms can desynchronise circadian rhythms and melatonin production,” says Kelly Posner, a psychiatrist at Columbia University in the US.

The pineal gland, which regulates circadian rhythm and melatonin production, is sensitive to magnetic fields. “The circadian regulatory system depends upon repeated environmental cues to [synchronise] internal clocks,” says Posner. “Magnetic fields may be one of these environmental cues.”

Geomagnetic storms could disrupt body clocks, precipitating seasonal affective disorder and therefore increase suicide risk, Posner told New Scientist.

There seems little doubt that the brain responds to electromagnetic fields – coils that generate electromagnetic fields can trigger muscular twitches when placed over a person’s skull.

However, Shumilov, who was presenting his data at the European Geoscience Union (EGU) annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, last week, does not believe geomagnetic activity influences everyone equally.

Suicide statistics

He also presented hospital data from 6000 pregnant women who had routine scans of their fetus’s heart rates between 1995 and 2003. In 15% of the fetuses, periods of disturbances in their heart rates coincided with periods of high geomagnetic activity.

Shumilov accepts that light levels in northern countries can influence depression, but believes that geomagnetism may be another factor, and one that is under-appreciated.

The trouble with studying the causes of suicide is that it is a rare condition, says Klaus Ebmeier, a psychiatrist at the University of Oxford. “You are bound to get spurious effects. A study of the causes would have to enrol a country’s entire population.”

Cosmo Hallstrom, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, agrees. “You have to be very careful with suicide statistics,” he says. “Countries report them differently. Catholic countries are very reluctant to diagnose suicide. Scandinavian countries consider it a social injustice not to.”

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