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Last Post 3/21/2014 9:39 AM by  Kris Sigsbee
solar storms
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3/21/2014 7:47 AM

    melissa l (bh)

    when di this term first come to use to describe solar activity as solar storms?

    Tags: solar storms, Geomagnetic Storms, space weather

    Kris Sigsbee

    Basic Member

    Basic Member

    3/21/2014 9:39 AM

    Hi Melissa,

    I hope that maybe some of the other Solar Week scientists can help you with this question, because it is one that I have been wondering about myself!

    I don't think solar storms is a term that scientists use very much when we talk to one another or publish papers. I did not hear anything like the term "solar storm" used very much while I was in school until I was very close to graduation. I think the first time I heard something like this term used was around 1998 when NASA published a poster called "Storms from the Sun" as part of an outreach project for the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and other International Solar-Terrestrial Physics missions. The poster was about coronal mass ejections (CMEs), but it did not actually use the term "solar storm" anywhere! You can see the poster here:


    I'm not a big fan of the term "solar storms." I have no problem with people using the term "solar storms" to collectively describe extreme solar activity like flares, large prominences, coronal mass ejections, solar proton events, that either are observed on the Sun or originate from the Sun during solar maximum. However, I am a little worried that I have seen people start using the term "solar storm" to describe activity in the Earth's magnetosphere in lots of splashy news features every time there is a big CME. The term "geomagnetic storm" has been used for many years to describe activity in the Earth's magnetosphere, and it is still an accurate description based upon the behavior of certain geomagnetic indexes that measure the behavior of Earth's magnetic field and the radiation belts. Although geomagnetic storms can be caused by solar storms, not all solar storms (CMEs, flares, etc.) have an impact on the Earth's magnetosphere. Also, there are some geomagnetic storms that are caused by things like high-speed solar wind or boundaries in the heliospheric current sheet, which are just business as usual for the Sun, and not anything particularly "extreme" related to solar maximum. In fact, during solar minimum, you are probably more likely to see geomagnetic activity caused by high-speed solar wind than by CMEs.

    "Space weather" is a better term to use if you want to include both the solar storms and geomagnetic storms together.


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