We all have heard of hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes that are a natural phenomena when a storm with a violent wind occurs, sometimes along the coastline, devastating whatever comes in its way. However, have you heard of a space hurricane? Well seems like a bunch of plasma, around 1,000 km wide have been swirling hundreds of kilometers above the north pole.
According to a study titled, A space hurricane over the Earth’s polar ionospherepublished in the Nature Communications journal last month, an international team of scientists observed satellite images and found electrons raining on the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The team of scientists, led by China’s Shandong University, analysed observations made by satellites in August 2014 and created a 3D image of the hurricane in the Earth’s ionosphere. The study observed a hurricane, which occurred during a period of low geomagnetic activity in 2014 and it suggests that it is possibly one of many such events happening within our Solar System and beyond.
One of the scientists who participated in the study, Professor Michael Lockwood from the Department of Meteorology, University of Reading in the United Kingdom, says that until now, it was not clear that space plasma hurricanes even existed, and therefore to prove this with such a striking observation is an incredible achievement in itself. The press release by the University of Reading further quoted Lockwood as saying that tropical storms are associated with huge amounts of energy, and these newly discovered space hurricanes are most likely created by unusually large and rapid transfer of solar wind energy and charged particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
He further said that this phenomena is not unique to Earth since plasma and magnetic fields in the atmosphere of planets exist throughout the universe, and hence their findings suggest space hurricanes should be a widespread phenomena.
The study can prove to be a breakthrough in the field of weather and GPS systems since the presence of space hurricanes highlight the importance of improved monitoring of space weather, which is likely to disrupt GPS systems.