You are here. (Size, but not distance to scale in image)
The Sun is ~1 million times the size of earth. Even though it is far away, it influences all aspects of climate on earth – directly and indirectly.
Bathed in Solar Wind
The solar wind is a steady stream of charged particles such as electrons and protons that emanate in all directions from the sun at variable speeds ranging from 300 km/s to ~800 km/s; the solar wind includes magnetic clouds. These particles interact with each other as they rush through space, and they also interact with earth’s atmosphere and magnetosphere – a protective field around earth that shields much of the effect of the solar wind, but that responds to its force as well.
The solar wind’s effect is visible when there is a solar storm or Coronal Mass Ejection – which leads to beautiful Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). These curtains of colored light in the sky are caused by the electro-chemical interaction of the charged particles reaching our atmosphere.
Solar Energy Made Visible – Aurora Borealis
Natural forces like solar storms affect the high atmosphere and change the chemical make-up of the atmosphere, the resulting effect can be seen in the aurora borealis/Northern Lights. This is a breathtaking example, giving a visible sense of the power of the solar wind and solar energy’s effects on the earth.
This clip uses time-lapse photography.
This clip uses real time photography.
You can check out solar disturbances on Solar Ham’s website:
More info can be found at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory’s website.
Of the climate factors and processes shown in the image below, humans only directly affect one – atmospheric composition of gases – and then only nominally compared to natural forces.
Subject to Cosmic Rays
The Sun’s magnetic field is like a giant bubble around our solar system that reaches beyond our farthest planets where it meets the ‘bowshock’. The image above shows that the solar wind slows down as it extends far from the sun, becoming weaker, yet still resisting most incoming cosmic forces.
As the sun rotates, its magnetic field swirls like a ‘skirt’ as visualized below – and as earth travels through these changing ripples of magnetic fields, our climate is affected – largely by our greater or lesser exposure to incoming cosmic rays.