Surprise! Study finds solar winds hit north pole more than south

From the UA website and the not THAT Mann department:

University of Alberta physicists have discovered a surprising imbalance in how the Earth responds to space weather driven by the sun. Energy generated as the electrically charged particles in solar wind hit the Earth result in more electromagnetic energy heading towards the magnetic north pole than to the magnetic south pole.

The sun bathes our planet in the light and heat to sustain life, but it also bombards us with dangerous charged particles in the solar wind. The resulting space weather has the potential to damage communication networks, navigation systems such as GPS, and satellites. Severe solar storms can even cause electrical power outages, such as a 12-hour blackout that Quebec suffered in 1989.

Like a magnet, Earth’s magnetic field can be defined at the surface by the north and south magnetic poles that align loosely with the axis of rotation. Until now, it was assumed the same amount of electromagnetic energy in space would reach both hemispheres of our planet.

Credits: © Planetary Visions (credit: ESA/Planetary Visions)

Using information from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Swarm satellite constellation, the team of Canadian scientists led from the U of A discovered that electromagnetic energy transported by space weather clearly prefers the north. A key component of the research involved data from an electric field instrument developed in Canada by the University of Calgary. The research discovery resulted from a partnership between the two Alberta universities and ESA, and highlights international research excellence in space science in the province.

“We are fortunate that we have ESA’s three Swarm satellites in orbit, delivering key information that is not only vital for our scientific research, but can also lead to some very practical solutions for our daily lives,” said U of A co-author Ian Mann, professor in the Department of Physics.

“Because the south magnetic pole is farther away from Earth’s spin axis than the north magnetic pole, an asymmetry is imposed on how much energy makes its way down towards Earth in the north and south,” explained Ivan Pakhotin, lead author and post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Physics.

The new findings suggest that in addition to shielding Earth from incoming solar radiation, the magnetic field also actively controls how the energy is distributed and channelled into the upper atmosphere.

“We are not yet sure what the effects of this asymmetry might be, but it could also indicate a possible asymmetry in space weather and perhaps also between the aurora australis in the south and the aurora borealis in the north,” said Pakhotin. “Our findings also suggest that the dynamics of upper atmospheric chemistry may vary between the hemispheres, especially during times of strong geomagnetic activity.”

Weathering geomagnetic storms

“The sun’s activity, such as mass coronal ejections, can have potentially serious consequences for our modern way of living,” said Mann. “So studying the underlying physics of space weather and the complexities of our magnetic field is very important for building up early warning systems and designing better electrical grids which are better able to withstand the disturbances the sun throws at us.”

In orbit since 2013, the three identical Swarm satellites have not only returned information about how Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the dangerous particles in solar wind, but also yielded insights into how the field is generated, how it varies and how the position of magnetic north changes over time.

The study, “Northern preference for terrestrial electromagnetic energy input from space weather,” was published in Nature Communications.

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No one
January 22, 2021 10:21 pm

Some hemispheres are more equal than others.

Reply to  No one
January 25, 2021 5:43 am

Yeah. The North is bifurcated.

Joel O'Bryan
January 23, 2021 12:16 am

So the dynamo running in the outer core is far from symetrical. No surprise. We already knew that. There is the South Atlantic (magnetic) Anomaly (SAA). Because of the very weak magnetic field in that region, the inner Van Allan radiation belt (of mostly high energy protons) dips down to a low altitude there of several hundred km. Many LEO satellites, like space telescopes (Hubble, Swift, Fermi) switch to a non-observing mode when they transit the SAA. The Space Shuttle had multiple instances of laptop computers crashing during SAA transits.

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
January 24, 2021 3:33 pm

A few years ago, during a tour of University of Maryland laboratories, I saw a very unusual experiment. It took the form of a ten foot diameter hollow stainless steel sphere, which had suspended at its center another stainless sphere. In between was 12 tons of liquid sodium, maintained at 250 F by external heating coils. The internal sphere is spun up to induce motion in the sodium, and the result is a dynamo effect which is used to study the Earth’s magnetic field. I don’t know the current status of the project, but was really glad I was able to see it in operation. Here’s a link to more information:

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael S. Kelly
Peta of Newark
January 23, 2021 1:46 am

Watching and counting the dancing faeries is such a rewarding pastime doncha think

Might I suggest, for fear of over-using the word, that there are some Real Gems in that mountain of (space) rock

“”The sun bathes our planet in the light and heat to sustain life
No no no. It doesn’t do it ‘to‘ sustain life.
It does it because it does. Life is entirely co-incidental, so no, the sun was not put up there entirely for your benefit

“”result in more electromagnetic energy heading towards the magnetic north pole than to the magnetic south pole””

Err, how to break this, ermmmmm
Heat & Light are both = electromagnetic energy.
Oooh, wonders if this is why the Noth Pole is melting?

“”We are not yet sure what the effects of this asymmetry might be, but it could also indicate a possible asymmetry in space weather and perhaps also between the aurora australis in the south and the aurora borealis in the north,” said Pakhotin””

Hello Patacake and while you’re here- Would you like to know what I’mnot sure about‘?
Thought not.
So why am I or is anybody else interested in your insecurities, which are patently manifold.
Prozac may help.
Personally I found it to be complete crap, depends whether you ‘believe‘ or how gullible you are.

“”Our findings also suggest that the dynamics of upper atmospheric chemistry may vary between the hemispheres, especially during times of strong geomagnetic activity“”

Nothing to do with the Ozone Hole then

“”“The sun’s activity, such as mass coronal ejections, can have potentially serious consequences for our modern way of living,” said Mann””

Oh Noes
Does this mean I have to go to Tesco for my Chocolate Biscuit Fix today, or ALDI as I do usually
Silly me. A new LIDL has just opened in town, better go there, just to be on the safe, suggested, side.

“”but can also lead to some very practical solutions for our daily lives“”

Yeah. Right. You mean; “Control & Tax”

Somebody has to pay for swarms of Sputniks

Last edited 2 years ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 23, 2021 5:32 am

You might be wrong about the sun. It often smiles on my face.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 23, 2021 11:07 am

Heat is Not electromagnetic energy. It is energy due to molecular motion. That motion may be the result of interaction of molecules with electromagnetic energy, as occurs when molecules absorb IR energy and warm.

Reply to  donb
January 23, 2021 4:50 pm

A) Peta is quoting the poorly conducted and badly written alleged research.

Infrared wavelengths are paltry energy sources. Energetic short wavelengths carry much larger energy content.

B) Whether discussing the sun’s wavelength emissions or the Sun’s ejected solar wind particles is immaterial. Both are electromagnetic. Even that IR radiation you mention.

Magnetospheres are quite capable of warming molecules via induction.

Peta’s comment is correct and the researchers involved deserve every erg of sarcasm Peta aims at them.

Reply to  donb
January 25, 2021 12:10 pm

Radiation is a method of heat transfer that does not rely upon any contact between the heat source and the heated object as is the case with conduction and convection. Heat can be transmitted through empty space by thermal radiation often called infrared radiation. This is a type electromagnetic radiation . No mass is exchanged and no medium is required in the process of radiation. Examples of radiation is the heat from the sun, or heat released from the filament of a light bulb.”
How is heat transferred? Conduction — Convection — Radiation (

Intelligent Dasein
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 23, 2021 3:26 pm
Robert Arvanitis
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 23, 2021 4:38 pm

A sense of poetry is not incompatible with the scientific method. Rather. it leads to insights by analogy, metaphor, alternative perspective

Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 24, 2021 5:15 am

Light is potential energy, not electromagnetic. It is in little preserved packets, literally canned.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 24, 2021 5:47 am

I wonder how long this study ran for, did they lake reading for an entire 22year solarcycle where the magnetic field reverses after each 11 year cycle and did they also take into account the fact that the suns magnetic poles also rotate randomly around the suns surface and only occasionally line up perfectly to form a clear north & south poles.

Reply to  Phil
January 24, 2021 7:50 am

The satellites have only been on station for a little over 7 years

January 23, 2021 2:38 am

I have no deep knowledge on the subject of space weather but …

Charged particles moving through a magnetic field are deflected in a direction determined by whether they are positive or negative and by the direction of the field. link The cathode ray tubes in old TVs and computer monitors worked on this principle.

It’s not obvious to me why you would assume the Earth’s two magnetic poles would attract the same number of particles.

Reply to  commieBob
January 23, 2021 5:38 am

That’s especially true considering the elliptical orbit of the Earth about the sun and the hemispheric distance and seasonal imbalances that result.

Curious George
Reply to  commieBob
January 23, 2021 8:36 am

The report is short on numbers. Are we talking a 50% asymmetry, or 10%, or 1%, or 0.1%? It feels like coming from the Scientific American.

Reply to  commieBob
January 23, 2021 10:04 am

My ignorant question is how much effect the sun’s 11 year cycle has on this; would it reverse halfway through the cycle, or with alternating cycles?

Reply to  commieBob
January 24, 2021 4:20 pm

Unless the sun is building up charge over the years, then the number of charged particles leaving the sun will have to be balanced in regards to the number of positive vs. negative charges.

January 23, 2021 2:44 am

Why is it a surprize?
Protons are positively charged, the B field has a sign.
Why should north and south be identical?

January 23, 2021 3:32 am

Until now, it was assumed the same amount of electromagnetic energy in space would reach both hemispheres of our planet.

Really? I seriously doubt any competent scientist who give it more than 5 minutes thought would “assume” that.

January 23, 2021 3:56 am

No surprise; 2 is greater than 1- .comment image

Philip Mulholland
January 23, 2021 4:36 am

Only a surprise to those who presume that they already know.

Last edited 2 years ago by Philip Mulholland
January 23, 2021 5:52 am

Does the difference in “solar weather” vary from season to season? Do they find more “solar weather” in the Northern Hemisphere because it’s easier to get there in the summer than the Southern Hemisphere. This could be similar to the man looking for his car keys under the street light instead of where he thought he lost them because the light is better there.

January 23, 2021 6:50 am

So, has anybody actually, physically measured the ant/arctic circles and the two tropics recently? This data suggests that Cancer will be further frome equator than Capricorn, making the arctic smaller, antarctic bigger?
oh, and I hardly think the magnetic poles “…loosely follow the spin axis…” That single (mis)statement tells me someone has loosely understood the basics of our planet. On the other hand, if that was loosely true, the implications have great potential to shut up the climate change crowd, or at least get them to start talking sense. But I think that was just a loose statement thrown in with no serious forethought.

Reply to  paranoid goy
January 23, 2021 8:31 am

Considering that the definitions of the Tropics is defined as the furtherest North or South the Sun appears on the Solstices, the only way they could not be equidistant from the Equator is if the Earth had a wobble that perfectly coincided with the Earth’s orbit of the Sun.

Reply to  DonK31
January 24, 2021 4:50 am

Aha! Demanding stability of planetary orbit is the falacy upon which is built the entire climate change scare porn industry.
Did you follow the link on my name? It shows you the mechanism for changing the tropics’ sizes, and explains why one hemisphere would get more sun than the other.
The other bit of info missing from the learned paper, is the time frame of their data gathering. For all we know, they compare sunlight only during summer in the north, which means less sun in the south. But I’m sure they’re not that stupid, so I stick with the orbit “height” theory. Or, rather, seeing that I’m woefully unlicenced to have my own thoughts, I’ll just call it an idea…
As for the magnetic field directing photons, does that not require all those photons to be aligned, like, the sun issues omnidirectional laser light? Just asking.

Reply to  paranoid goy
January 24, 2021 4:22 pm

No one needs to demand the stability of the planetary orbit. It just is.
All orbits are stable unless there is something perturbing them.

Reply to  MarkW
January 24, 2021 11:19 pm

Right there you are demanding the universe complies with your mental picture of how it should behave. I include a crude picture from the simple explanation I offer under my name tag, the one you did not bother to click on. No orbit is stable, because they all perturb each other…
Take a plastic bucket by the handle, then spin around on one spot, swinging the bucket in an orbit. Now repeat that with the bucket full of sand, and see if you can still keep your feet in one spot. No, your feet will also move in a small circle to compensate for that mass. Now consider the sun compensating likewise for the mass of Jupiter. Panetary orbits are not stable, because the sun they orbit, does not stand still in space.
I’m a simple man, I find simple explanations for my universe, but I try not to be simplistic.

January 23, 2021 7:19 am

Maybe a factor in why the South Pole has a ozone hole problem?

Richard Page
Reply to  Kramer
January 23, 2021 1:58 pm

Both poles have an ozone thinning problem so not exclusively limited to Antarctic.

Reply to  Richard Page
January 24, 2021 12:36 am

The thinning over the South Pole has shown to be seasonal.

Reply to  Richard Page
January 24, 2021 4:23 pm

The thinning over the north pole has been shown to not exist.

Richard G.
Reply to  Kramer
January 23, 2021 4:12 pm

This assumes that an ozone hole is a problem, a conclusion not proven, but presumed. The very definition of begging a question.
This logical fallacy (begging the question, assuming the answer to a question not conclusively proven) is what bedevils climate change. It is assumed to be harmful when it may in fact possibly be beneficial.
Why does pessimism dominate human thinking as a default position?

Richard Page
Reply to  Richard G.
January 24, 2021 3:22 am

Er well yes – a hole in the ozone layer would actually be a problem. CFC’s causing a hole in the ozone layer may not be. The fact that both north and south poles exhibit thinning that fluctuates on a seasonal basis probably indicates that this is an on going natural occurrence and not due to man-made CFC gases.

Reply to  Kramer
January 24, 2021 5:09 am

What ozone hole problem? Take half a glass of water, swirl it around until a vortex forms in the centre. Use that as meditative aid while considering the earth spins at a thousand miles an hour. How I laughed the first time I was told about the hole in the ozone layer! I was just a boy then…

James F. Evans
January 23, 2021 7:44 am

Interesting, not only does the North pole get more solar wind (electromagnetic energy), but also the polar vortex currently sits approximately over the magnetic North pole.

Question: is there a physical correlation, cause & effect, between the magnetic North pole and Winter polar vortex which typically sets up in the Winter months?

And if there is a cause & effect, is this correlation based on electromagnetic properties of both the solar wind & Earth’s magnetic structure?

Reply to  James F. Evans
January 24, 2021 7:10 am
January 23, 2021 8:27 am

Earth is at perihelion around Jan 3rd and the north pole is tilted toward the sun. Aphelion happens July 4th when the south pole is tilted towards the sun. Since solar wind intensity depends on distance to/from the sun, the explanation for the noted discrepancy is due to the orbit.

Reply to
January 23, 2021 11:59 am

I believe you have reversed your poles and blown fuse

January 23, 2021 8:39 am

Let’s see if this pattern continues when the sun’s magnetic polarity finishes flipping.

Reply to  MarkW
January 23, 2021 5:12 pm

Earth’s magnetic field weakens unevenly.

Neither of Earth’s magnetic “poles” “aims” or leans at the sun except incidentally as the magnetic poles wander.

Apparently the researchers are confused by what is meant by Earth’s “Pole” and why solar wind particles and radiation are captured by Earth’s magnetosphere, not the polar ice caps…

Apparently the researchers didn’t delve into Earth’s magnetic fields or why there are differences in Earth’s magnetosphere.

Appears to be more ignorance and confirmation bias in this alleged research.

Reply to  ATheoK
January 24, 2021 1:24 pm

ATheoKApparently the researchers didn’t delve into Earth’s magnetic fields.This may help the people who want to know, how a magnetic field is created.
Basic Principles of Magnetism
Magnetism is defined as the physical phenomenon produced by moving electric charge. Also, a magnetic field can induce charged particles to move, producing an electric current. An electromagnetic wave (such as light) has both an electric and magnetic component. The two components of the wave travel in the same direction, but oriented at a right angle (90 degrees) to one another.
The Relationship Between Electricity and Magnetism (

January 24, 2021 5:13 am

Wait until they find out it’s what is causing the reduction in O2 and some sea level rise!

January 24, 2021 1:40 pm

Most of the solar wind is deflected around Earth .

“The magnetic field of the earth is also known as the geomagnetic field. It comes out from the earth’s internal part and extended into space. Then it approaches the charged particles of the sun’s radiation. That’s how the magnetosphere saves the habitability property of the earth.”
Magnetosphere of the Earth: All Informative facts- Planets Education

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