The equatorial electroject. (Credit: Brett A. Carter)
Led by researchers at Boston College, scientists have uncovered the vulnerability of the Earth’s equator to space weather, according to a release. They were joined by scientists at Dartmouth College and RMIT University in completing the work.
Much of the effort depended on analyzing 14 years of already existing data collected in space and on Earth. Scientists focused on the equatorial electrojet, a naturally flowing current that moves about 100 kilometers above Earth. It travels over parts of Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and other important land masses.
Essentially, the work looked at the response of this electrojet to explosions that occur on the Sun’s surface. As these explosions take place, they influence solar winds, which the researchers found can cause spikes in the current. In addition, global magnetic signatures measured on the ground become amplified with changes in the electrojet.
Fluctuations like those can cause damage to unprotected power infrastructure, researchers say. For more of their finds, full results of the study can be found in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Top image: The equatorial electroject. (Credit: Brett A. Carter)