Current cosmic ray activity
We happen to be in a weak solar cycle (24) which is actually on pace to be the weakest cycle in more than one hundred years. Therefore, it would not be surprising to have relatively high cosmic ray penetration into the Earth’s atmosphere; especially, since we are now heading towards the next solar minimum phase when solar activity is generally even quieter. During solar maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay.
In fact, for the past year, neutron monitors around the Arctic Circle have sensed an increasing intensity of cosmic rays. Polar latitudes are a good place to make such measurements, because Earth’s magnetic field funnels and concentrates cosmic radiation there. As it turns out, Earth’s poles aren’t the only place cosmic rays are intensifying. “Spaceweather.com” has led an effort in the launching of helium balloons to the stratosphere to measure radiation, and they find the same trend increasing intensity of cosmic rays over California. Their latest data show an increase of almost 13% since 2015. [For more on this study click here]:
Cosmic rays have been steadily increasing in recent months during historically weak solar cycle 24; plot courtesy spaceweather.com and California data courtesy study sponsored by spaceweather.com
In the plot, neutron monitor measurements from the University of Oulu Cosmic Ray Station are traced in red; gamma-ray/X-ray measurements over California are denoted in gray. The agreement between the two curves is remarkable. It means that the intensification of cosmic rays is making itself felt not only over the poles, but also over lower latitudes where Earth’s magnetic field provides a greater degree of protection against deep space radiation. There’s a new section on spaceweather.com where you can monitor cosmic rays in the atmosphere.
As reported elsewhere on this blog, here, more cosmic ray has been shown to produce more clouds, and more clouds reduce the plant’s temperature. We can expect some cooler climate as Solar Cycle 24 sunspots and CMEs decline.