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No. 50: Mar-Apr 1987

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Magnetic Precursors Of Large Storms

On January 22, 1986, a magnetometer at the Fredricksburg Magnetic Observatory, in Virginia, recorded a sudden jump (of 45 gammas) in the earth's horizontal magnetic field component. Alerted to this, G. Wollin, at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory, immediately predicted that a major snowstorm or flooding rains would hit northeastern states within six days. Wollin contacted the weather people in the region, but they discounted the prediction because satellite pictures and conventional weather indicators implied nothing of the sort. A three-day storm began on January 25, depositing 3 feet of snow in northern New England and 4 inches of rain along the coast from Washington to Boston. Wollin has had similar successes, without even looking at a weather map!

Obviously, Wollin's forecasting techniques are not yet part of the Weather Bureau's arsenal. This is not too surprising because even Wollin does not understand why major storms should be preceded by several days by nervous magnetometers. He talks in a tentative way about solar storms, which do affect terrestrial magnetism, dumping energy into the oceans and thence into the atmosphere. But this is mainly speculation. Historically, we do know that long-term changes in the earth's magnetic field are linked to global temperature levels (see graphs); but here, too, cause and effect are not obvious.

(Gribbin, John; "Magnetic Pointers to Stormy Weather," New Scientist, p. 70, December 25, 1986.)

Long-term changes in global temperature follow changes in geomagnetic intensity Long-term changes in global temperature follow changes in geomagnetic intensity.

From Science Frontiers #50, MAR-APR 1987. 1987-2000 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