GALACTIC Cosmic Rays are a mixture of high-energy photons and sub-atomic particles accelerated toward Earth by supernova explosions and other violent events in the cosmos, while SOLAR Cosmic Rays are effectively the same, only their source is the Sun.
Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching cosmic ray balloons almost weekly since March 2015–before the pandemic threw a spanner in. The team’s published results reveal that atmospheric radiation reached record highs just as solar activity hit a new space age low — the correlation is clear for all to see, with additional proxy data revealing it has been the case for time-immemorial.
During solar minimums –the low point of the 11 year solar cycle– the Sun’s magnetic field weakens and the outward pressure of the solar wind decreases. This allows more cosmic rays (CRs) to penetrate the inner solar system, including our planet’s atmosphere:
Radiation levels have been increasing almost non-stop since the Earth to Sky Calculus monitoring program began, with the latest flights in Dec, 2019 (fig.1) and early-2020 (fig.2) registering new all-time highs:
If this is indeed a Grand Solar Minimum we’re headed into, cosmic rays should be trending off the charts — and that is exactly what we’re starting to see:
Researchers at the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory have been monitoring cosmic rays since 1964.
When CRs hit Earth’s atmosphere, they produce a spray of secondary particles that rain down on Earth’s surface (visualized in the below image). Among these particles are neutrons, and detectors –such as those in Oulu– count these neutrons as a proxy for cosmic rays.
Below is another look at the correlation between CRs and the Sun.
The top panel demonstrates the natural waxing and waning of cosmic rays with the 11-year solar cycle: during Solar Maximum cosmic rays are weak; during Solar Minimum they are strong.
Cosmic rays are bad–and they’re going to get worse — that’s the conclusion of a 2020 study entitled “Galactic Cosmic Radiation in Interplanetary Space Through a Modern Secular Minimum.”
The type of radiation produced by cosmic rays is the same used in medical X-ray machines and airport security scanners. This radiation has increased by more than 20% in the stratosphere, according to spaceweather.com data.
Cosmic rays penetrate commercial jets, delivering whole-body dosages equal to one or more dental X-rays even on regular flights across the USA. Cosmic rays pose an even greater hazard to astronauts, as you would expect. They can also alter the electro-chemistry of Earth’s upper atmosphere, sparking lightning.
“During the next solar cycle, we could see cosmic ray dose rates increase by as much as 75%,” says lead author Fatemeh Rahmanifard of the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center. “This will limit the amount of time astronauts can work safely in interplanetary space.”
No amount of spacecraft shielding can stop the most energetic cosmic rays, leaving astronauts exposed whenever they leave the Earth-Moon system. Back in the 1990s, astronauts could travel through space for as much as 1000 days before they hit NASA safety limits on radiation exposure. Not anymore. According to the new research, cosmic rays will limit trips to as little as 290 days for 45-year old male astronauts, and 204 days for females (men and women have different limits because of unequal dangers to reproductive organs–my apologies to all those with an ‘overinflated sense of uniqueness’ that are offended by this gender stereotyping fact!).
However, far more crucial than limiting jollies into space –and fantasies of colonizing Mars– cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere have been found to seed clouds (Svensmark et al). Cloud cover plays the most important role in our planet’s short-term climate change: “Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade,” writes Dr. Roy Spencer, “and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.” And while an overturning of ocean currents, a reduction in TSI, an increase in ice/snow albedo, or a VEI 6+ volcanic eruption are all capable of reducing Earth’s terrestrial temperature, all that is actually required is an uptick in CRs (check) leading to an increase in cloud cover (check).
To conclude, the upshot of the historically weak solar minimum of cycle 24 –-the Sun’s deepest of the past 100+ years (NASA)-– combined with the further waning that is forecast for cycles 25 and 26 (and beyond) will be a inescapable cooling of the planet — and we’re already seeing the start of this: according to the satellites, the global average temperature has just dropped BELOW the 30-year baseline.
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The COLD TIMES are returning, the mid-latitudes are REFREEZING in line with the great conjunction, historically low solar activity, cloud-nucleating Cosmic Rays, and a meridional jet stream flow (among other forcings).
Both NOAA and NASA appear to agree, if you read between the lines, with NOAA saying we’re entering a ‘full-blown’ Grand Solar Minimum in the late-2020s, and NASA seeing this upcoming solar cycle (25) as “the weakest of the past 200 years”, with the agency correlating previous solar shutdowns to prolonged periods of global cooling here.
Furthermore, we can’t ignore the slew of new scientific papers stating the immense impact The Beaufort Gyre could have on the Gulf Stream, and therefore the climate overall.
Prepare accordingly— learn the facts, relocate if need be, and grow your own.
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Grand Solar Minimum + Pole Shift