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Day 59 – Q.1 Evaluate the effects of solar activity, including sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections, on the Earth’s atmosphere and its implications for human civilization.

  • IASbaba
  • January 25, 2023
  • 0
GS 1, Indian Geography, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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Evaluate the effects of solar activity, including sunspots, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections, on the Earth’s atmosphere and its implications for human civilization.

पृथ्वी के वायुमंडल और मानव सभ्यता के लिए इसके प्रभावों पर सौर गतिविधि के प्रभावों का मूल्यांकन करें, जिसमें सनस्पॉट, सौर फ्लेयर्स और कोरोनल मास इजेक्शन शामिल हैं।


Approach –

A simple straightforward question where candidates need to write about effects of solar activity , sunspots , solar flares and coronal mass ejection on earth atmosphere and its effect on human civilization .

Introduction –

A solar storm is used to refer to the atmospheric effects that are visible on earth through certain events that occur on the surface of the Sun. Solar Storms happen when a Sun emits large bursts of energy in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. An adverse effect of solar storms is the disruption of satellites and other electronic means of communications.

Body –

What are the effects of Solar Activity on Earth-

  • Auroras: When charged particles from a CME reach areas near Earth, they can trigger intense lights in the sky, called auroras.
  • Affects Electronics and Satellites: The energy, radiation and high-energy particles emitted by the flares can affect Earth-bound objects and life on Earth – it can affect the electronics within satellites and affect astronauts.
  • Failure of Power Grids: Very powerful Earth-directed coronal mass ejections can cause the failure of power grids and affect oil pipelines and deep-sea cables.
  • Sunspots, Solar Flares, Coronal Mass Ejections and their influence on Earth: Coronal Mass Ejection Coronal Mass Ejections (shown left) and solar flares are extremely large explosions on the photo-sphere.
  • In just a few minutes, the flares heat to several million degrees F. and release as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT.
  • They occur near sunspots, usually at the dividing line between areas of oppositely directed magnetic fields. Hot matter called plasma interacts with the magnetic field sending a burst of plasma up and away from the Sun in the form of a flare.
  • Solar flares emit x-rays and magnetic fields which bombard the Earth as geomagnetic storms. If sunspots are active, more solar flares will result creating an increase in geomagnetic storm activity for Earth.
  • Therefore during sunspot maximums, the Earth will see an increase in the Northern and Southern Lights and a possible disruption in radio transmissions and power grids. The storms can even change polarity in satellites which can damage sophisticated electronics.
  • Therefore scientists will often times preposition satellites to a different orientation to protect them from increased solar radiation when a strong solar flare or coronal mass ejection has occurred.

Impact of Solar Flares and CMEs on Earth-

  • Not all solar flares reach Earth, but solar flares/storms, solar energetic particles (SEPs), high-speed solar winds, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that come close can impact space weather in near-Earth space and the upper atmosphere.
  • Space-dependent services: Solar storms can hit operations of space-dependent services like global positioning systems (GPS), radio, and satellite communications.
  • Radio communication: Geomagnetic storms interfere with high-frequency radio communications and GPS navigation systems.
  • Magnetosphere: CMEs, with ejectiles loaded with matter travelling at millions of miles an hour, can potentially create disturbances in the magnetosphere, the protective shield surrounding the Earth.
  • Astronauts: Astronauts on spacewalks face health risks from possible exposure to solar radiation outside the Earth’s protective atmosphere.
  • Other: Aircraft flights, power grids, and space exploration programmes are vulnerable.

Effects of Interplanetary Coronal Mass Ejections on Earth-

  • Geomagnetic Storm: caused by the shock wave of moving mass, which may also disturb Earth’s magnetosphere.
  • Aurora: In vast areas surrounding Earth’s magnetic poles, solar energetic particles can create extremely powerful auroras. In the northern hemisphere, these are known as the Northern Lights (aurora borealis), whereas in the southern hemisphere, they are known as the Southern Lights (aurora australis).
  • disruption of Radio Transmissions.
  • damage to Satellites.
  • damage to Electrical Transmission Line Facilities.

Implication on human civilization –

  • Very high-energy particles, such as those carried by Coronal Mass Ejections, can cause radiation poisoning to humans and other mammals.
  • When a coronal mass ejection strikes Earth’s atmosphere, it causes a temporary disturbance of the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • It can throw satellites off course and cause them to fall to the surface of the earth, putting many urban centers at risk.
  • Some scientists have speculated that migrating animals which use magneto reception to navigate, such as birds and honey bees, might also be affected.
  • Rapidly fluctuating geomagnetic fields can produce geomagnetically induced currents in pipelines. This can cause multiple problems for pipeline engineers. Pipeline flow meters can transmit erroneous flow information and the corrosion rate of the pipeline can be dramatically increased.

Conclusion –

Fortunately, no matter what, flares do not have a significant effect on Earth. The Earth’s atmosphere more or less acts as a shield to prevent the cosmic radiation from reaching the surface. There can be measurable effects at ground level, but the amount of radiation is pretty insignificant.

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