University of Oulu

Observations of solar wind related climate effects in the Northern Hemisphere winter

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Author: Maliniemi, Ville1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Physics
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 6.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2016
Publish Date: 2016-12-21
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented, with the assent of the Doctoral Training Committee for Technology and Natural Sciences of the University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Auditorium GO101, Linnanmaa, on 14th October, 2016, at 12 o’clock noon.
Reviewer: Doctor Hua Lu
Doctor Miriam Sinnhuber
Opponent: Doctor Eugene Rozanov
Kustos: Professor Kalevi Mursula


This thesis studies the long-term relation between the solar wind driven energetic particle forcing into the atmosphere and the tropospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere winter. The work covers the period of more than one hundred years since the turn of the 20th century to present. The thesis makes a statistical analysis of satellite measurements of precipitating energetic electrons, sunspot number data and geomagnetic activity, and compares them with temperature and pressure measurements made at the Earth's surface.

Recent results, both observational and from chemistry climate models, have indicated significant effects in the Earth's middle atmosphere due to the energetic electrons precipitating from the magnetosphere. These effects include the formation of reactive hydrogen and nitrogen oxides in the high latitude mesosphere and the depletion of ozone caused by them. Ozone is a radiatively active and important gas, which affects the thermal structure and dynamics of the middle atmosphere. Accordingly, the depletion of ozone can intensify the large scale stratospheric circulation pattern called the polar vortex. Winter weather conditions on the surface have been shown to be dependent on the polar vortex strength.

This thesis shows that there is a significant relation between the average fluxes of medium energy (ten to hundred keVs) precipitating electrons and surface temperatures in parts of the Northern Hemisphere in winter time. Temperatures are positively correlated with electron fluxes in North Eurasia and negatively correlated in Greenland during the period 1980-2010 which is covered by direct satellite observations of precipitating particles. This difference is especially notable when major sudden stratospheric warmings and the quasi-biennial oscillation (QBO), which both are known to affect the polar vortex strength, are taken into account. When extended to the late 19th century, the analysis shows that a similar temperature pattern is predominated during the declining phase of the sunspot cycle. The high speed solar wind streams and energetic particle precipitation typically maximize also at the declining phase of the solar cycle. This specific temperature pattern is related to the variability of the northern annular mode (NAM), which is the most significant circulation pattern in the Northern Hemisphere winter. Before the space era, geomagnetic activity measured by ground observations can be used as a proxy for energetic particle precipitation. Earlier studies have found a significant positive correlation between geomagnetic activity and NAM since the 1960s. We find that, when the QBO measured at 30 hPa height is in the easterly phase, a positive correlation is extended to the beginning of 1900s. We also show that high geomagnetic activity causes a stronger effect in the Northern Hemisphere winter than high sunspot activity, especially in the Atlantic and Eurasia.

A comprehensive knowledge of the Earth's climate system and all its drivers is crucial for the future projection of climate. Solar variability effects have been estimated to produce only a small factor to the global climate change. However, there is increasing evidence, including the results presented in this thesis, that the different forms of solar variability can have a substantial effect to regional and seasonal climate variability. With this new evidence, the solar wind related particle effects in the atmosphere are now gaining increasing attention. These effects will soon be included in the next coupled model inter comparison project (CMIP6) as an additional solar related climate effect. This emphasizes the relevance of this thesis.

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Series: Report series in physical sciences
ISSN: 1239-4327
ISSN-L: 1239-4327
ISBN: 978-952-62-1354-5
ISBN Print: 978-952-62-1353-8
Issue: 105
Copyright information: This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.