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MacSA
Mar 26, 2007, 06:27 AM
http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn11456-solar-superflare-shredded-earths-ozone.html

The largest solar flare in the last 500 years may have shredded Earth's ozone layer to a greater extent than human-made chemicals have in recent decades, new research suggests, but the effect was only temporary. If such a flare occurred today, it would likely be even more damaging to the ozone and could increase the rate of skin cancer around the world.

On 1 September 1859, the Sun expelled huge quantities of high-energy protons in a 'superflare'. The event was seen on Earth by an observer who noticed a white spot on the Sun suddenly brighten for about five minutes.

When the magnetic storm struck Earth, fires started in telegraph stations due to electrical arcing in the telegraph wires. The northern lights, or aurorae borealis, were reportedly seen as far south as Florida in the US.

This flare released 6.5 times more energy than the largest solar flare of the satellite era, which occurred in 1989. That flare was strong enough to cause a power blackout in Quebec, Canada.

Now, scientists have calculated the ozone depletion from the 1859 solar flare for the first time by studying chemical deposits in Greenland ice cores.

The deposits were laid down after the flare set off a series of reactions in Earth's atmosphere. For roughly two days after the flare, high-energy protons entered the atmosphere through the polar regions, channelled there by the planet's magnetic field lines.

The protons ionised nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the atmosphere, which then formed nitrogen oxides. The nitrogen oxides in turn reacted with ozone – a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms, breaking it into oxygen molecules and atomic oxygen.

This breakdown caused global atmospheric ozone levels to drop by 5%. In comparison, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other chemicals have depleted the levels by about 3% in recent years, says team member Adrian Melott, a physicist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, US.

However, unlike CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals, which can persist in the atmosphere for some time, the flare-induced ozone thinning probably lasted for just four years, the researchers report. That is because the nitrogen oxides that cause the depletion eventually rain down with water or ice. Indeed, it was this acid rain that was eventually recorded in the ice cores.

If such a superflare occurred today, it would likely have an even greater effect on the atmosphere, since the ozone layer is already depleted due to CFCs and other human-made chemicals.

"It certainly wouldn't be helped any," says team leader Brian Thomas, an atmospheric modeller at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, US.

Since the ozone layer normally blocks some of the Sun's dangerous ultraviolet radiation, a superflare would probably mean an increase in skin cancer due to the higher levels of UV light reaching the ground. The magnetic storm could also fry the electronics on many satellites and cause power outages on Earth.

dmw007
Mar 26, 2007, 06:51 AM
Guess I had better stock up on sun tan lotion. ;) :D

vincebio
Mar 26, 2007, 06:52 AM
well, it was temporary and it doesnt excuse humans from making an ass of the planet now....

we have no excuses.

the planet may be going into an ice age naturally at some stage anyway, but we have accelerated the process to a point of no return....no green taxes or fuel duty will not make any difference to the outcome.

rant over...for now :D

Cabbit
Mar 26, 2007, 06:57 AM
well, it was temporary and it doesnt excuse humans from making an ass of the planet now....

we have no excuses.

the planet may be going into an ice age naturally at some stage anyway, but we have accelerated the process to a point of no return....no green taxes or fuel duty will not make any difference to the outcome.

rant over...for now :D

We are already in a ice age, a ice age is when ever the poles are frozen. If we were not in a ice age there would be a hole other contanent inhabited with humans.

Mr Skills
Mar 26, 2007, 04:05 PM
We are already in a ice age, a ice age is when ever the poles are frozen.

Technically correct, but I've never understood why this essentially semantic argument has any bearing on the climate change debate. It's a bit like the word "theory" in the creationism debate - an issue of technical vs colloquial usage that ultimately advances neither side's argument.

Actually, just to pre-empt the obvious retorts, the semantics can be used as a barometer of someone's knowledge, thus shedding some light on the validity of their other arguments. So maybe it is useful after all.

I'll shut up now. :)




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Henri Gaudier
Mar 27, 2007, 04:20 AM
Semantics are a pedants godsend.

Tom B.
Mar 27, 2007, 10:31 AM
I watched a program about this last night. They said that it the worst case scenario, we could lose all electrical power for months or even years! :eek:

TBi
Mar 27, 2007, 10:42 AM
It would only be months or years if we didn't get round to fixing the infrastructure. All a solar flare does is break everything in one go, like a relaly big storm. You just have to get out there and put everything back together.

Mr Skills
Mar 27, 2007, 12:50 PM
I watched a program about this last night. They said that it the worst case scenario, we could lose all electrical power for months or even years! :eek:

What, no Macs? No TV? :eek:

I suppose I could buy a radio...



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killr_b
Mar 27, 2007, 05:04 PM
Man-made global warming is a myth.
Sunspot activity and solar flares cause the climate to change.

MacNut
Mar 27, 2007, 05:26 PM
What, no Macs? No TV? :eek:

I suppose I could buy a radio...No TV as the satellites would fry up nicely.

hotwire132002
Mar 27, 2007, 05:52 PM
What, no Macs? No TV? :eek:

I suppose I could buy a radio...



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Radio stations need electricity too... ;)

srf4real
Mar 27, 2007, 06:00 PM
So, would one of these huge flares cause the waves to be any better?:confused: ;)

TBi
Mar 27, 2007, 06:16 PM
Radio stations need electricity too... ;)

Maybe he just likes listening to static...

dmw007
Mar 28, 2007, 08:01 AM
What, no Macs? No TV? :eek:

I suppose I could buy a radio...


I know, I could not imagine going without electricity for that long! :eek:

So, would one of these huge flares cause the waves to be any better?:confused: ;)

Probably not... :p ;) :D

Jasonbot
Mar 28, 2007, 08:19 AM
Maybe he just likes listening to static...

Radio's need electricity too...;)

Mr Skills
Mar 28, 2007, 10:04 AM
Radio's need electricity too...;)

Good point. I'll just read books and play my PSP.



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TBi
Mar 28, 2007, 10:22 AM
Radio's need electricity too...;)

You can buy wind up ones... sheesh do i have to think of EVERYTHING :P

Jasonbot
Mar 28, 2007, 11:22 AM
You can buy wind up ones... sheesh do i have to think of EVERYTHING :P

Well how do you think factories make them, magic? :D

Diatribe
Mar 28, 2007, 11:27 AM
Imagine the prices go up for generators and solar panels if we really had a power shortage... :eek:

TBi
Mar 28, 2007, 11:30 AM
Well how do you think factories make them, magic? :D

I don't get your point...

Mr Skills
Mar 28, 2007, 11:38 AM
Well how do you think factories make them, magic? :D

Wind-up factories, silly!

Without electricity, we'd have to use wind-up power for everything:


http://www.pestbouncer.com/Dsc01644key.jpg
http://www.johnstonservices.com/autowindupkey/Auto_Wind-up_Key_on_PT2.jpg


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Jasonbot
Mar 28, 2007, 11:56 AM
I don't get your point...

Well Mr Skills did :P

Without electricity, we'd have to use wind-up power for everything

To how many MPC (Miles per crank) does that chrysler get?
Oh, and cars normally use petrol (gas) to run, the batteries charge themselves :D

yellow
Mar 28, 2007, 12:05 PM
Maybe a Superflare would give me super powers! :D

CANCERMAN!

Mr Skills
Mar 28, 2007, 12:37 PM
Oh, and cars normally use petrol (gas) to run, the batteries charge themselves :D

Yes, but cats don't have this facility.




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Jasonbot
Mar 28, 2007, 01:04 PM
Yes, but cats don't have this facility.




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You really got me there :( *crawls back into hole to crank up the mac*