Science Questions

Sat, 15th Jul 2006

Part of the show Sun Tans, Fission and Fusion

Question

Dirk via email asked:

Are we any closer to working out how geomagnetic fluctuations in the Sun affect our climate?

Answer

We've come a long way with this science recently. The reason for this is that the Sun has a magnetic field and the magnetic field goes out into space in the solar wind. That affects planets with a magnetic field. If you put two magnets together they will either repel or attract depending on whether they are the same or opposite. If the Sun's field in space is the opposite sign, those two fields can join together and some of this very hot gas can fall into the Earth's atmosphere. This is what is known as a geomagnetic storm. If you are measuring the Earth's magnetic field from the ground you start to see your compass needle get a bit confused because the magnetic field of the Earth is being moved about and altered by being connected to the Sun's magnetic field.

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