Earth’s thermosphere has recently 20 year high temperature After absorbing energy from a geomagnetic storm that hit Earth this year. Temperatures in the second-highest layer of the atmosphere are likely to continue rising over the next few years as solar activity increases, which could affect Earth-orbiting satellites, experts warn.
The thermosphere extends from the top of the mesosphere at about 85 km above the ground to the bottom of the exosphere beginning at about 600 km above the ground. NASA. beyond exosphere outer space.
For more than 21 years, NASA has measured thermospheric temperatures by: infrared ray It is released by carbon dioxide and nitric oxide molecules. Scientists used data collected by NASA’s Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellites. Thermospheric climate index (TCI), measured in terawatts or TW. (1TW equals 1 trillion watts.)
The soaring TCI value peaked at 0.24 TW on March 10, Martin MlynchakTCI’s creator and principal investigator on the TIMED mission at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia told Live Science. The last time the TCI was this high was on December 28, 2003. (The temperature spike data have been submitted to the journal, but have not yet been peer-reviewed.)
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The temperature surge was caused by three geomagnetic storms in January and February. coronal mass ejection (CME), less frequently caused by streams of highly charged particles known as the solar wind. sun.
“These ‘storms’ store energy in the thermosphere and increase the temperature,” Mlynczak said. “The increased heat increases the level of infrared emission from nitric oxide and carbon dioxide in the thermosphere.” Infrared radiation usually cools the thermosphere after a storm, but temperatures remain high when the storm returns.
Since the spike, at least two more geomagnetic storms have hit Earth. One was on March 24th. Most Powerful Solar Storm to Hit Earth in More Than 6 YearsAnd another equally powerful storm on April 24th. Mlynczak said TCI values from these storms remained high but had yet to pass the March peak.
Geomagnetic storms become more frequent and intense during solar maxima, part of the approximately 11-year solar cycle when the Sun is most active and covered in plasma loops and dark sunspots that spew out CMEs and solar winds.
As a result, Earth’s thermosphere also follows a roughly 11-year cycle, Mlynczak said. Government Scientists at NASA and NOAA Next solar maxima predicted to arrive in 2025This means that the warming trend is likely to continue over the next few years.
Changes in the thermosphere could cause problems for low-orbit satellites located around the upper boundary of the thermosphere, Mlynczak said.
“The thermosphere expands as it warms, which in turn increases the aerodynamic drag on all satellites and space debris,” Mlynczak said. This increased drag can pull the satellites closer to Earth, causing them to collide or collide with each other. out of orbit completelyJust as the SpaceX Starlink satellites did after the incredible geomagnetic storm in February 2022.
Satellite operators can avoid these problems by putting spacecraft into higher orbits when needed, but the unpredictability of space weather often makes it difficult to know when such a maneuver is necessary until it is too late.
Solar maximum may also arrive sooner than expected. A recent study published Jan. 30 in the journal Pioneers in astronomy and space science The peak of solar activity could arrive as early as the end of 2023, suggesting it could be more powerful than initially expected. If this scenario plays out, the risk of a satellite disaster is further increased.
However, over longer timescales, temperatures in the thermosphere are decreasing. weather change Increased Infrared Emissions into Space From Journal’s May 8 Study Earth’s atmosphere and planetary science establish.
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