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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