Sun’s atmospheric currents may help predict solar storms

Scientists have presented the first direct, observational evidence of atmospheric currents — similar to Rossby waves found on Earth — on the sun. The discovery has the potential to help predict solar storms that affect everything from orbiting satellites to telecommunications systems and the energy grid on Earth.

Rossby waves are atmospheric waves across the planet that are associated with the jet stream and play an important role in weather. They are influenced by the Earth’s rotation and by the temperature contrasts between Earth’s oceans and land.

A team of researchers that included Yale graduate student William Cramer published a study about the findings March 27 in the online edition of the journal Nature Astronomy.

“Not only does this provide new understanding of how the solar atmosphere evolves over time, but it also appears that the motion of the waves is linked to the 22-year solar cycle,” Cramer said. “What this means is that events that were previously thought of as almost random, such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections, are actually linked to the long-term, cyclical behavior of the sun.

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