Are Cosmic Rays Intensifying Across the Globe?

In summary, cosmic rays have been intensifying in the past year, as shown by measurements from neutron monitors around the Arctic Circle and helium balloons launched by Spaceweather.com and Earth to Sky Calculus. This trend is not only seen at the Earth's poles, but also at lower latitudes like California. The increase in cosmic rays is likely due to the decline in solar activity, which allows more cosmic rays to reach Earth. This can have impacts on weather, aviation, and even human health. Recent data shows a 10-13% increase in cosmic rays since 2015, highlighting the yin-yang relationship between solar activity and cosmic rays.
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The following article is from the January 28, 2016 edition of Spaceweather.com:

INTENSIFYING COSMIC RAYS:
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. Turns out, Earth's poles aren't the only place cosmic rays are intensifying. Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been launching helium balloons to the stratosphere to measure radiation, and they find the same trend over California:

cosmicrays_mar15_jan16_strip.png


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.

Cosmic rays, which are accelerated toward Earth by distant supernova explosions and other violent events, are an important form of space weather. They can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Indeed, our measurements show that someone flying back and forth across the continental USA, just once, can absorb as much ionizing cosmic radiation as 2 to 5 dental X-rays. Likewise, cosmic rays can affect mountain climbers, high-altitude drones, and astronauts onboard the International Space Station.

This type of radiation is modulated by solar activity. Solar storms and CMEs tend to sweep aside cosmic rays, making it more difficult for cosmic rays to reach Earth. On the other hand, low solar activity allows an extra dose of cosmic rays to reach our planet. Indeed, the ongoing increase in cosmic ray intensity is probably due to a decline in the solar cycle.
 
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The report below is from the February 9th, 2016 edition of Spaceweather.com. The linked remarks that cosmic rays are implicated in the nucleation of clouds and the triggering of lightning are interesting and potentially significant, but may not be entirely settled science.

COSMIC RAYS CONTINUE TO INTENSIFY:
Last month, we reported thatcosmic rays are intensifying. Measurements so far in February indicate that the trend is continuing. In fact, the latest balloon flight over California on Feb. 5th detected the highest value yet:

cosmicrays_strip.png

The data show that cosmic rays in the mid-latitude stratosphere now are approximately 10% stronger than they were one year ago.
 
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COSMIC RAYS CONTINUE TO INTENSIFY: Researchers have long known that solar activity and cosmic rays have a yin-yang relationship. As solar activity declines, cosmic rays intensify. Lately, solar activity has been very low indeed. Are cosmic rays responding? The answer is "yes." Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been using helium balloons to monitor cosmic rays in the stratosphere. Their latest flight on Feb. 16th measured the highest values yet:

cosmicrays_strip.png


The data show that cosmic rays in the mid-latitude stratosphere now are approximately 12% stronger than they were one year ago.

Cosmic rays, which are accelerated toward Earth by distant supernova explosions and other violent events, are an important form of space weather. They can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population. Among patients who have an implanted cardioverter - defibrillator (ICD), the aggregate number of life-saving shocks appears to be correlated with the number of cosmic rays reaching the ground.References: http://www.heartrhythmjournal.com/article/S1547-5271%2808%2900481-5/fulltext , #2, #3, http://shao.az/SG/v1n2/SG_v1_No2_2006-pp-13-16.pdf .

Why do cosmic rays increase when solar activity is low? Consider the following: To reach Earth, cosmic rays have to penetrate the inner solar system. Solar storms make this more difficult. CMEs and gusts of solar wind tend to sweep aside cosmic rays, lowering the intensity of radiation around our planet. On the other hand, when solar storms subside, cosmic rays encounter less resistance; reaching Earth is a piece of cake.

Forecasters expect solar activity to drop sharply in the years ahead as the 11-year solar cycle swings toward another deep minimum. Cosmic rays are poised to increase accordingly.
 
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SOLAR CYCLE CRASHING: Anyone wondering why the sun has been so quiet lately? The reason is shown in the graph below. The 11-year sunspot cycle is crashing:

solar-cycle-sunspot-number3_strip.png


For the past two years, the sunspot number has been dropping as the sun transitions from Solar Max to Solar Min. Fewer sunspots means there are fewer solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). As the explosions subside, we deem the sun "quiet."

But how quiet is it, really? A widely-held misconception is that space weather stalls and becomes uninteresting during periods of low sunspot number. In fact, by https://www.vsp.ucar.edu/Heliophysics/pdf/Lika_sideways_SC.pdf , we see that Solar Minimum brings many interesting changes. For instance, the upper atmosphere of Earth collapses, allowing space junk to accumulate around our planet. The heliosphere shrinks, bringing interstellar space closer to Earth. And galactic cosmic rays penetrate the inner solar system with relative ease. Indeed, a cosmic ray surge is already underway. (Goodbye sunspots, hello deep-space radiation.)

...reposted from Spaceweather.com, March 28, 2016 edition
 
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Cosmic rays have increased almost 13% since 2015.
- from today's edition of spaceweather.com

COSMIC RAYS INTENSIFY: Researchers have long known that solar activity and cosmic rays have a yin-yang relationship. As solar activity declines, cosmic rays intensify. Lately, solar activity has been very low indeed. Are cosmic rays responding? The answer is "yes." Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus have been using helium balloons to monitor cosmic rays in the stratosphere over California. Their latest data show an increase of almost 13% since 2015.

stratosphere_14aug16_strip.png


Cosmic rays, which are accelerated toward Earth by distant supernova explosions and other violent events, are an important form of space weather. They can seed clouds, trigger lightning, and penetrate commercial airplanes. Furthermore, there are studies ( #1, #2, #3, http://shao.az/SG/v1n2/SG_v1_No2_2006-pp-13-16.pdf ) linking cosmic rays with cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in the general population.

Why are cosmic rays intensifying? The main reason is the sun. Solar storm clouds such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) sweep aside cosmic rays when they pass by Earth. During Solar Maximum, CMEs are abundant and cosmic rays are held at bay. Now, however, the solar cycle is swinging toward Solar Minimum, allowing cosmic rays to return. Another reason could be the weakening of Earth's magnetic field, which helps protect us from deep-space radiation.
 
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Related to Are Cosmic Rays Intensifying Across the Globe?

1. What are cosmic rays?

Cosmic rays are high-energy particles that originate from outer space. They can be composed of protons, electrons, and atomic nuclei, and can travel at nearly the speed of light.

2. How are cosmic rays formed?

Cosmic rays are formed in a variety of ways, but the most common source is from exploding stars, also known as supernovae. These explosions release enormous amounts of energy, which accelerates particles to high speeds.

3. How do we detect cosmic rays?

Cosmic rays can be detected using specialized instruments such as particle detectors, telescopes, and satellites. These instruments measure the energy and direction of the particles and provide valuable information about their properties.

4. Why are intensifying cosmic rays a concern?

Intensifying cosmic rays can pose a threat to astronauts and satellites in space, as well as to electronic equipment on Earth. They can also affect our planet's climate and may contribute to changes in the Earth's atmosphere.

5. How do scientists study intensifying cosmic rays?

Scientists study intensifying cosmic rays by using a combination of theoretical models and observations from various instruments. They also conduct experiments to simulate the conditions in which cosmic rays are formed and accelerated, in order to better understand their properties and behavior.

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