CLIMATE SCIENCE: Storms on High

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Science  06 Sep 2002:
Vol. 297, Issue 5587, pp. 1611c
DOI: 10.1126/science.297.5587.1611c

Space weather is caused by fluctuating magnetic fields and by energetic particles that originate from the Sun and penetrate far into Earth's atmosphere. Its effects—most notably the aurora borealis and aurora australis—are usually confined to the polar regions, but geomagnetic storms can erode the plasmasphere, a charged layer that rotates with our planet, and cause widespread disruption of power and communications systems. Foster et al. use ground-based global positioning system (GPS) data, radar, and satellite observations to study the geomagnetic storm on 31 March 2001, near the maximum of the 11-year solar cycle. From measurements of the electron content and ion density over the mid-latitude continental United States and from a comparison of the resulting patterns with satellite data of the plasmasphere, the authors provide a vivid picture of how disturbances in the plasmasphere are propagated in the underlying ionosphere and how plasmaspheric tails stretch toward the Sun. — JFU

Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 10.1029/2002GL015067 (2002).

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