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No. 17: Fall 1981

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Solar Cosmic Rays Stimulate Thunderstorms

Not so long ago the idea of short-term solar influences on terrestrial weather was treated with contempt. However, meteorologists are now being converted in droves because believable physical links have been found linking sun and earth. A prime example is the bombard-ment of the terrestrial atmosphere by solar cosmic rays. The cosmic rays and the secondary particles they create ion-ize enough of the atmosphere to disturb the entire planetary electrical circuit. The details of the circuit changes are still under study, but there seems no question about cosmic rays initiating thunderstorm activity. Plots of global thunderstorm activity peak strongly about three days after any maximum in solar cosmic rays.

(Lethbridge, M.D. "Cosmic Rays and Thunderstorm Frequency," Geophysical Research Letters, 8:521, 1981.)

Comment. At its present rate of decline the earth's magnetic field will reach zero in 1200 years. With this protective magnetic bottle gone, we see a good future for lightning rod manufacturers.

Thunderstorm frequency index hunderstorm frequency index shows a maximum 3 days after cosmic-ray maximum.

From Science Frontiers #17, Fall 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987