Space Physics: Does the Sun Trigger Outbursts From Earth's Magnetosphere?

Science  15 Mar 1996:
Vol. 271, Issue 5255, pp. 1496
DOI: 10.1126/science.271.5255.1496


Whenever the sun pumps unusual amounts of energy into Earth's magnetic field, the field is liable to discharge the energy in a short, disruptive burst called a substorm. Substorms, which cause the aurora to flare, send damaging currents through power grids, and disrupt satellites, are now impossible to predict, but a new proposal offers hope. A solar physicist has found that substorms often take place when the interplanetary magnetic field changes direction, suggesting that spacecraft data might be used to predict them.